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CBS News Hires Ross to Overhaul Early Show

Shelley Ross, former executive producer of ABC's Good Morning America, will take the reins at Early Show, CBS’ struggling morning franchise, the network announced Monday.

Ross’ appointment is effective Sept. 17. She’ll take over for Steve Friedman, vice president of morning broadcasts, and Michael Bass, who has been senior executive producer of Early Show since 2002.

Both Friedman and Bass are in “active discussions” with Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports, “about new roles at CBS News,” according to the network press release.

The appointment of Ross is integral to the Early Show overhaul. Beginning Jan. 7, CBS stations will abandon a long-standing affiliate agreement that allows them to insert local content into Early Show. The agreement has hamstrung the show from developing a national profile in the highly competitive morning milieu.

Ross is a veteran of the morning-show wars. She turned GMA into a contender.

She said the problem plaguing morning TV is the high “fluff” factor. “All of the morning shows right now … feel retro-ish to me,” she said, citing the rote how-to segments so popular on morning television. “They feel old-fashioned.”

She added that she intends to make Early Show more "content-driven" and competitive in booking high-profile guests -- an area where the show has been woefully lacking.

Television, she said, "is cyclical. I think this is a great time to give this show another shot."

Ross declined to talk about any major changes she may be contemplating, but she did say that she likes the current Early Show anchor team of Julie Chen, Harry Smith, Hannah Storm and news anchor Russ Mitchell. “There’s something very genuine and authentic about them,” she added. “I think on a stronger show, they’ll shine brighter.”

Before going to GMA in 1999, Ross was executive producer of ABC’s Primetime, where she became known for a hard-charging style that landed the ABC program many high-profile gets.

But she left ABC News in 2006 after a rocky final year with the company. She was replaced on GMA by Ben Sherwood in 2004. Her final project for ABC was David Blaine special Drowned Alive.

As first reported by B&C in July, Ross has been in negotiations with CBS for some time. Former colleagues at ABC have been holding their breath that Ross -- who has long institutional memory of the inner workings of ABC News -- would not ultimately land at the competition.

“They should have thought of that before,” she quipped.