Williams to Replace Brokaw in 2004

The news came during a press conference announcing Brokaw, whose contract was set to expire this summer, will remain at “Nightly News” until after the 2004 presidential elections.

Speculation had swirled that the 62-year-old anchor was planning to vacate his seat, but Brokaw said he has been energized by coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks and their aftermath.

The move makes NBC the first network to go public with its evening newscast succession plan. All three network anchors — Brokaw, ABC’s Peter Jennings, and CBS’s Dan Rather — have been leading their newscasts since the early 1980s.

Williams came to NBC in 1993 from WCBS-TV in New York, and in recent years became Brokaw’s heir apparent. He served as the network’s chief Washington correspondent, anchored the Saturday edition of “Nightly News” and now hosts “The News with Brian Williams” on NBC’s cable sisters MSNBC and CNBC.

“Being the ‘Nightly News’ anchor is the pinnacle of any career in television news,” Williams said Tuesday. “I am a 43-year-old anachronism. I am the kid in front of the TV set wondering what it was like to anchor the evening news.”

The network’s announcement comes amid speculation about the future of evening newscasts and their current anchors. Rather is reportedly close to signing a deal to stay on at “The CBS Evening News”, while Jennings, whose contract also expires this summer, has reportedly been asked to take a multi-million dollar pay cut to stay at the helm of “World News Tonight.”

The move also coincides with program tinkering at MSNBC, which continues to come in a distant third behind cable competitors Fox News Channel and CNN. The network added conservative Alan Keyes to its prime-time lineup last fall and will debut a program hosted by former daytime talk host Phil Donahue later this year in the 8 p.m. timeslot Williams currently occupies.

NBC on Tuesday said “The News with Brian Williams” will soon air only on business channel CNBC.