TV Week sits down with ABC News’ Katherine O’Hearn. Some highlights:
The Insider: Since you rejoined ABC News as executive producer of “This Week,” the show has gained ratings and established itself as a consistent second to NBC’s “Meet the Press.” To what do you attribute the growth?
Ms. O’Hearn: It was a number of things. George has hit his stride. It is mostly George. He is comfortable and works harder than anyone I know. But it was also putting together a staff that is his. It’s an amazingly talented, passionate, committed, funny, bright, entertaining staff. I just love my staff. It was updating the production, literally everything from protocols and systems–there were none in place when I got there, because they split the staff in between “Nightline” and “This Week.” He had rotating researchers and rotating producers. George felt no ownership. I think that sense of giving him his own show, letting him be that central organizing principal, was the dynamic that changed the trajectory of the show. It came up to meet his growth and sophistication as a broadcaster. He already has a political reach, of course. The alchemy of my organization and producing skills and his brilliance as a reporting political anchor was the right mix.
The Insider: What competitive opportunities are to be had among Sunday newsmaker shows in the absence of Tim Russert?
Ms. O’Hearn: I think it’s an interesting time to not throw out the rule book but break a couple of the rules and try some different things. Tim was such a strong No. 1 in terms of the ratings that he set the standards. Now it’s kind of all bets are off. You can get in there and possibly play with format, although in a way I have to say the viewers are looking for one, simple, straightforward thing. I think it’s a little more about who is going to establish themselves. In the end it’s about who are people going to turn to as their reliable source for political news and for digging through the weeds of policy to keep us informed.
The Insider: You once described “This Week” as the most modern of the newsmaker shows. With a political landscape that has become increasingly cacophonous, what makes a newsmaker show most relevant and most successful now?
Ms. O’Hearn: I do think “This Week” is poised to only continue to grow in the ratings because it has a broader embrace of the political conversation. There’s an awareness that people get their political news from the late-night talk and comedy shows, so we offer that. We also offer a sense of the major passings of the week, which obviously run toward the political side. The show also has a little more heat because our open is highly produced, mapping what weâ€™re going to talk to everybody about. It just has a little more evolved sense of the political conversation. Thatâ€™s the modern part. It’s understanding how and where people get their news and paying respect to that.