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Pelley’s Shift at CBS News Breaks With Smooth Routine

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Both management and Mr. Pelley had been preparing for his departure from the evening newscast for months, and the move was made with a couple of points in mind: “60 Minutes,” which is entering its 50th season and enjoying a hot hand, will get a full-time correspondent who can devote himself to the newsmagazine without the distractions of a second job. Ratings were another factor: Mr. Pelley’s evening news show has long been in third place, and he has fallen further behind his two main competitors in the ratings this season.

The evening news assignments — which were once filled, with stature and glamour, by Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather — are not what they once were. Network executives are far more dedicated to morning news shows, where the star power is bright — with personalities like Gayle King, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and George Stephanopoulos — and the profits are huge.

And even with a news cycle dominated by President Trump driving enormous growth in cable news, the networks’ evening news shows have experienced ratings declines. This television season, the ABC, CBS and NBC newscasts are attracting fewer viewers.

Lester Holt’s NBC show leads in total viewers, with an average of 8.4 million, and in the 25- to 54-year-old demographic important to advertisers. “World News Tonight” on ABC, with David Muir, trails narrowly in total viewers while Mr. Pelley’s show, with an average of 6.9 million viewers, lags both by a wide margin. His show has also dropped 9 percent in the 25-to-54 demographic, the biggest decline of the three.

In a meeting with CBS News staff members on Wednesday, David Rhodes, the news division president, praised Mr. Pelley but said, “The audience gets a say, too,” suggesting that the ratings declines had been a factor in the move, according to a person who was there. Although Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Pelley have had a tense relationship in the past, people close to both of them said it had improved in recent years.

“I am grateful to Scott for pulling double duty these past six years on both ‘60 Minutes’ and the ‘CBS Evening News,’” Mr. Rhodes wrote in a memo to the staff. “Scott excels in long-form reporting and is one of the reasons ‘60 Minutes’ is America’s No. 1 news program. As we prepare to mark the anniversary, it is important to have Scott dedicated full time to that franchise.”

Mr. Pelley said in a statement: “CBS has been great to me for nearly 30 years. I’m glad to accept this assignment with continuing gratitude.”

The need for Mr. Pelley at “60 Minutes” is genuine. The show attracts about 12.4 million viewers, more than twice the total of its closest newsmagazine competitor. But Mr. Pelley’s output on “60 Minutes” was cut in half over the past year as the presidential election and Mr. Trump’s opening months as president consumed much of his time. In the past, Mr. Pelley has filed as many as 18 to 20 stories a year for “60 Minutes.”

Mr. Pelley’s move comes as NBC prepares to introduce its new Sunday evening newsmagazine show centered on Megyn Kelly, starting this weekend.

As the search for Mr. Pelley’s successor proceeds, Mr. Mason, a senior national correspondent for CBS News and a 25-year veteran of the network, will get a close look, particularly because he will have the interim job. The CBS correspondent Jeff Glor is also said to be in the mix, and the network will look outside its news division as well.

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