Former ABC anchor Tom Llamas officially announced as newest NBC hire
By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links
As was widely anticipated, former ABC News anchor and correspondent Tom Llamas is joining NBC News May 3, 2021 and will anchor a new primetime newscast on the network’s streaming news platform, the network announced April 26, 2021.
Llamas, who signed off from ABC at the end of January 2021, has kept a low profile for the past few months (possibly sitting out what would have been a three month noncompete).
NBC News Digital declined to comment on any further details of the new show, including any potential names or production locations. Its announcement also did not include any mention of what time the newscast would air other than saying it would be in “primetime.”
Sometime potential timeslots could pit Llamas against his old network’s streaming programming. ABC currently runs a version of “World News Tonight” on ABC News Live several times a night as well as an original newscast, “ABC News Live Prime.”
Llamas previously was on NBCUniversal’s payroll starting in 2000, working, as he put it in a tweet following the announcement, “…weekend overnights at @msnbc writing scripts, running prompter, and very unsure about the future,” adding that he’s glad he never gave up on his broadcast journalism dreams.
Glad that kid who was working weekend overnights at @msnbc writing scripts, running prompter, and very unsure about the future never gave up.
Excited about the days ahead and the chance to work with the force that is @NBCNews.
I hope you'll join me. https://t.co/vPxKoP39RH
— Tom Llamas (@LlamasNBC) April 26, 2021
Along with the news, Llamas also updated his Twitter handle to @LlamasNBC and made his profile banner the NBC News logo.
NBC’s hiring of Llamas appears to be a thinly (if at all) veiled attempt to take on its biggest rival in the arena of talent poaching.
ABC has made impressive inroads on NBC News’ ratings in recent years — leaving the peacock network dropping to second place for “Today” and “NBC Nightly News” in total viewers (though it still often wins in key demos) after decades as a ratings leader.
Some earlier reports have indicated that Llamas could be in line to take over “NBC Nightly News,” currently anchored by Lester Holt, sometime in the future and that could be part of a larger, yet to be announced plan.
That said, NBC News has, not surprisingly, confirmed any such possibility and did not respond to a request for comment on that aspect of Llamas’ deal for this story.
His departure from ABC may have, at least in part, been compounded by the fact he likely didn’t have many options for advancement there.
The network just inked a new deal with David Muir to not only stay at the “WNT” anchor desk but also take over anchoring special reports from “GMA” co-anchor George Stephanopoulos who, in a somewhat unusual deal, held the title of “chief anchor” and would typically helm breaking news coverage — a role typically reserved for the anchor of the network’s signature evening newscast.
Muir is still relatively young so Llamas may have seen it as unlikely he would be retiring or stepping down anytime soon, meaning Llamas couldn’t ascend to the main weekday anchor chair in the next few years.
Muir’s tenure has also been marked by overtaking “Nightly” in the ratings, meaning the network could be resistant to replacing him and may even make extra efforts to keep him in the chair. Llamas frequently filled in for Muir on weekday “World News Tonight” broadcasts as well as appearing on both ABC and ABC News Live breaking news coverage.
Reports earlier this year indicated that ABC ruffled Stephanopoulos’ feathers after it started considering doing away with the “chief anchor” title but giving it to Muir in spirit.
ABC execs reportedly had to offer to set up a production company for Stephanopoulos, among other incentives, to get him to stay with the network.
Muir’s rise to the anchor desk itself required some careful orchestration by ABC execs at the time.
Stephanopoulos was perhaps the most obvious pick in terms of seniority for the job.
However, he was also growing audiences as part of the “GMA” team and the network may not have wanted to rock the boat there and risk losing its lead over NBC in this lucrative timeslot (despite the ratings lead, ABC still reportedly makes way less than NBC for advertising on its morning newscast).
The resulting deal was the compromise of Stephanopoulos getting that “chief anchor” title, which he no longer holds. He’s also still the primary anchor and moderator of “This Week.”