NEW YORK (AP) – Tom Brokaw is leaving the anchor chair but not NBC. He signed a 10-year contract Wednesday to remain at the network, largely to produce and narrate documentaries.

Brokaw, 64, is stepping down as anchor of NBC’s “Nightly News” on Dec. 1, and will be replaced in that role by Brian Williams.

“To a lot of people that meant I was going to sit around in an old anchorman’s home with a lap robe and a drool cup,” Brokaw told The Associated Press. “But I never intended to stop working.”

He’s been an NBC employee since 1966, starting as a reporter at the network’s Los Angeles affiliate. Brokaw has been sole anchor of “Nightly News” since 1983 and NBC’s main anchor on major news events.

Brokaw will be the first of the broadcast networks’ Big Three – with Peter Jennings of ABC and Dan Rather of CBS – to leave that role. All three have been in place for more than two decades.

He already regularly produces documentaries, and said he has four in the works now: on health care, politics, D-Day and a hiker who lost his arm.

NBC’s merger with Universal, completed Wednesday, gives Brokaw more outlets. The network already owns CNBC, MSNBC and Bravo, and will add networks like USA and Trio to its stable.

The author of “The Greatest Generation,” about the people who fought World War II, Brokaw plans to continue his writing career. He wouldn’t talk about future book projects.

“I wrote four books in four years, doing my day job, and produced two or three documentaries a year,” he said. “I just don’t want to do that again.”

The new NBC deal also offers him more personal flexibility if, for instance, he wants to teach at a college for a month or so.

He’ll also be an analyst on major breaking news events, the network said.

Brokaw said the first thing he’s planning after Dec. 1 is to skip town, in part to give Williams time to establish himself. An avid hiker, Brokaw is taking a trip to the South American region of Patagonia.

The South Dakota native has a second home in Montana, equipped with a soundproof room where he can record voiceovers for his documentaries.

NBC News has a tradition of locking up its big names to long-term contracts; “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert, for example, is signed through the 2012 election.

By signing a deal that keeps him at NBC through 2014, he would not be able to run for office on a national ticket until, say, 2016. Brokaw had been mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate, talk that bemused him.

“I’m running for cover, not for office,” he said.

AP-ES-05-12-04 1637EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.