ABC News will turn to an insider to lead its flagship morning program, “Good Morning America,” one of the most critical roles in live television.
Simone Swink, a longtime senior staffer at the show, has been named its senior producer, according to a memo sent to employees by Kim Godwin, president of ABC News Sunday.
Swink takes a role which has been left vacant for months. The show, a pillar of the economics of both ABC and its parent company, Walt Disney, was previously supervised by Michael Corn, who left abruptly in April, and was recently accused of sexual harassment in a lawsuit filed last week. Corn has denied the allegations. ABC News has been sifting through candidates for the top job at “GMA” for weeks, and had considered a number of prominent executives from outside the company, according to people familiar with the process.
“Simone is a dynamic, thoughtful and creative leader, experienced in collaborating across platforms,” said Godwin. “I’m confident that she and the GMA team will continue to lead the show in new and innovative directions.”
She will have to. Swink will serve as ABC News’ commander in TV’s never-ending morning wars, in which the networks compete for millions of dollars in advertising and some of TV’s most coveted — albeit shrinking — audiences. Despite the absence of a top leader, “GMA” has continued to secure the biggest overall audiences in the morning, outpacing both NBC’s “Today”
and CBS’ “CBS This Morning.” Even so, “GMA” is not the leader is a critical category; “Today” wins the biggest A.M. crowds among viewers between 25 and 54, the viewership category prized most in the advertisers that support the programs.
“Good Morning America” captured $293.6 million in advertising in 2020, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. The program, anchored by Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos and Michael Strahan, also serves as a massive promotional platform for Disney, which relies on the show to get the word out about many of its movies and initiatives. And the program has been expanding. In 2018, ABC News launched an afternoon extension of the program that, after a shaky start, has functioned as sort of a news update for midday viewers. In 2019, ABC expanded the hours of the “GMA” Saturday broadcast, part of a bid to get more stations to run the program across the U.S. on the weekend.
But there are new challenges on the horizon, particularly as morning programs push into new realms as one-time TV audiences change their habits amid new digital options. NBC’s “Today” has ventured into streaming and podcasting. Meanwhile, “CBS This Morning,” which has long run third to “GMA” and “Today” is working on a revamp of its format that will put its show in a new studio in Times Square, just like “Good Morning America’s.” The CBS News program is enlisting Nate Burleson, a former NFL player, as a member of its anchor team — a parallel with Strahan at “GMA.”
Swink has logged years in the trenches to produce non-fiction TV. She started working in ABC News’ Washington bureau, for “This Week with Sam Donaldson & Cokie Roberts” and then “Nightline.” Then she moved to help launch the National Geographic Channel’s evening newscast and produced climate change coverage for the broadcast, a job that had her travel from New Zealand to the Galapagos and Peru. She also worked on the launch of both Jane Pauley and Martha Stewart’s daytime talk shows and covered the Asian and American financial markets for Bloomberg Channel. When Swink returned to ABC News, she joined its long-form unit. While at GMA, she has supervised presidential and midterm election nights, 9/11 special event coverage and the special event coverage of Harry & Meghan’s royal wedding.
Swink joined “GMA” in 2010 as a writer and has seen her responsibilities grow over time. Most recently, she has helped manage the program with another senior producer, Christine Brouwer, and has supervised the show’s second hour, which, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, had the “GMA” hosts working with a live in-studio audience at the program’s studio in Times Square.
It still serves as a place for concepts with ambitious logistics, including “Rise & Shine,” a segment that has the show’s anchors and correspondents visiting all 50 states over a period of sevewral few months as the nation emerges from coronavirus conditions. Swink’s hope has been for the series to culminate in the fall in New York’s Times Square with a live production by a Broadway show.
“Now that I’ve said it, I’m going to have to do it,” she told Variety in May.