NEW YORK (AP) – ABC elevated Robin Roberts to anchor status with Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer on “Good Morning America,” a recognition of her increased role on the news program.

Roberts, 44, moved into a chair beside her colleagues on Monday’s “GMA.” The ABC News broadcast has been moving up in the ratings this season against its archrival “Today” show on NBC, the long-dominant network news program in the mornings.

The former college basketball star and ESPN personality has read the news headlines on “Good Morning America” since 2002 and has gradually assumed a more prominent role, doing reporting and conducting interviews. One of the few immediate differences viewers will see is simply where she’s sitting.

“It was a little comical, seeing all three of us fit behind this desk and (saying) ‘Move over, you’re a little too close to me,”‘ she told The Associated Press in an interview.

NBC, ABC and CBS offer similar mixes of news and features in the morning. One of the few differences is the anchor team: NBC has the duo of Katie Couric and Matt Lauer, ABC now has three and “The Early Show” on CBS has four.

The emergence of Roberts gives ABC some security for the future; Sawyer is 59 and Gibson is 62. Gibson has also been subbing as “World News Tonight” anchor for three nights a week as Peter Jennings undergoes lung cancer treatment. ABC said the Roberts promotion had been in the works since before Jennings’ diagnosis became known.

“Today” routinely beat “GMA” by two million viewers five years ago, but the average gap slipped to 270,000 one week last month and NBC fired the “Today” executive producer. “Today” is beating “GMA” by an average of 610,000 viewers this season, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The two shows are angling for every possible advantage in a sweeps month. “GMA” this morning offered a never-before-seen scene from “Desperate Housewives” – ABC’s most popular show – that was cut from the Sunday episode for length. Sawyer has also landed an interview with actor Brad Pitt that will be shown later this month.

In moving from the often bombastic sports announcing world to work primarily at “GMA,” Roberts said people told her the biggest adjustment would be the hours, but she found that not to be the case.

“It was really the tone,” she said. “You can’t scream at people in the morning. You have to really ease them into the day.”

Her promotion makes thing even tougher on her mother back in Louisiana, who needs a quick trigger on the TV remote control: Roberts’ older sister Bridget is co-host of a local morning show on WWL-TV in New Orleans. Bridget is quick to point out that her show often beats “GMA” in the ratings.

“She’s been a tremendous help,” Robin Roberts said. “When most people have to call a stranger and ask for advice, I just called my sister.”

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