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Kathleen Sullivan Says She Faces CBS Ax if Ratings Don’t Rise

October 31, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ In an unusually frank comment Monday, ″CBS This Morning″ co-anchor Kathleen Sullivan said ″my days are numbered″ at the program if its ratings, now third among network morning shows, don’t improve.

Sullivan spoke while on the syndicated ″Donahue″ show with her two female competitors on network morning programs, Joan Lunden of ABC’s ″Good Morning America″ and Jane Pauley, who is leaving ″Today″ at the end of this year.

″I can’t lie about that - I know the ax is right there,″ Sullivan said when asked by host Phil Donahue if she was feeling the pressure of being on a program that is third in the ratings.

The CBS News program, which Sullivan co-anchors with Harry Smith, premiered on Nov. 30, 1987. It succeeded a short-lived, low-rated entertainment show, and was the latest in CBS’ long effort to compete in the morning.

Although Sullivan said her program’s ratings have risen 50 per cent since it began, she also said that if more viewers don’t watch ″and we don’t improve from where we are (in ratings), my days are numbered.

″And I don’t think there’s a question about that. That’s the business. I know that. I’m a grownup.″

Sullivan, who joined CBS from ABC, didn’t elaborate. There was no immediate comment from CBS.

During Monday’s show Pauley - who last Friday told her national ″Today″ audience that she is leaving after 13 years and will be succeeded by news anchor Deborah Norville - reiterated that it was her decision to leave.

However, she said in response to a viewer’s question, she wouldn’t be leaving as soon as she is had not Norville, whom she has called a friend, been hired for the program. Norville became its news anchor on Sept.5.

″No, I would not be leaving at this time because the shift in attitude would have come along much more slowly,″ she said, referring to her own attitude about leaving the top-rated program.

″It took some kind of an external jolt, if you will, to propel me out of a course I had very happily travelled for 13 years,″ she said.

Pauley, whose current NBC News contract has been extended to 1992, will co- anchor a prime time news series that will premiere in late June or early July. She also will anchor a prime-time special called ″Changes″ in March.

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