Good News for the News BizThe elections will drive ratings, but there is plenty of other drama coming in 2012—both in front of and behind the cameras 1/02/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Not until you stack the events
up—the revolutions in Egypt,
Libya, Tunisia and Syria; the
earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in
Japan; the killing of Osama bin Laden; the
devastating tornadoes and hurricanes in
the U.S.—does one realize the sheer volume
of news that transpired in 2011.
“We have never seen a year like this
in international news,” Tony Maddox,
executive VP and managing director of
CNN International, said at an industry
event in early December. “We have been
stretched to the full.”
And that was just in front of the camera.
Behind the scenes at TV news organizations,
the stories were just as numerous,
with new leadership installed at CBS News;
the very public move of Katie Couric
to ABC and Scott Pelley’s succession at
the CBS Evening News; Keith Olbermann,
Glenn Beck and Meredith Vieira all leaving
their posts; and yet another set of CBS
morning anchors being announced.
If history is any guide, expect more
changes, personnel and otherwise, in TV
news in 2012, including this list of the
biggest potential shifts to watch.
The Morning Race
Under the leadership of Ben Sherwood,
ABC News has been gunning for network
news leader NBC, nowhere as aggressively
as the mornings. Good Morning America
added anchors Lara Spencer and Josh
Elliott, and though the venerable Today
hasn’t skipped a beat since Vieira’s departure,
GMA clearly will smell blood if Matt
Lauer decides to exit when his contract expires
at the end of 2012. That leaves NBC
to plan for a possible succession at the toprated
morning show, with Ryan Seacrest
the latest name to re-enter that rumor mill.
CBS, for decades a distant third in the
mornings, is opting to no longer copy
the Today format, instead modeling its
upcoming CBS This Morning more like
another NBC News entry, Morning Joe—
with the help of that show’s former executive
producer, Chris Licht. With the
odd-couple pairing of Charlie Rose and
Gayle King joining the broadcast, CBS
will see what a morning program focused
more on news than cooking and
fashion segments will do for its ratings.
(The industry’s guess: Not much).
All Politics Is Personal
The upcoming presidential election is
already providing constant fodder for the
cable news networks and will continue
to be one of the biggest editorial stories
of 2012. As with the CNN/YouTube and
upcoming NBC News/Facebook debates,
news organizations are looking for more
ways to get viewers involved in a political
year that finds a majority of Americans
dissatis! ed with their elected of! cials.
“I think increasingly what we’re seeing
in television right now is it will become
more and more personal,” Anne
Sweeney, co-chairman, Disney Media
Networks and president, Disney/ABC
Television Group, said at B&C’s On-
Screen Media Summit in December in
regards to ABC News’ deal with Yahoo!
“I think it’s a sign of things to come.”
ABC News used that partnership in
its live series of Republican presidential
candidate interviews in November.
Figuring out the right way to use digital
platforms is a big goal of the coming
year, said another network news chief.
Continued Evolution at CNN
More than a year into his tenure,
CNN/U.S. executive VP Ken Jautz has
changed nearly every hour of primetime,
and we’re guessing he’s not done. Piers
Morgan, approaching his one-year anniversary
at the network, will soon have to
justify his so-so ratings against his yearago
averages instead of Larry King’s. The
addition of Erin Burnett has also done
little to perk up CNN’s numbers, and
while Jautz told B&C in November he’s
“happy with the lineup the way it is” in
regards to Anderson Cooper at 8 and 10
p.m., repeats in primetime are simply
not a competitive long-term strategy.
Stemming the Tide
Network news got a welcome surprise
headline in September when reports
said all three of the evening newscasts
gained viewers in 2011 after nine years
“That is something that a lot of people
were not predicting,” says NBC News
president Steve Capus.
The rise was no doubt fueled by the
busy news year and the fact that among
Brian Williams, Diane Sawyer and Pelley,
there is more variety in the newscasts
than before and hence potential for a
larger audience share.
The key for 2012 is to keep it. CBS
News chairman Jeff Fager, who has seen
the Evening News under Pelley bring back
some of the viewers it lost under Couric,
expects to see that number continue to
creep up. Combined with a presidential
election year and issues such as the continued
unrest in the Middle East, conditions
are ripe for sustained viewership at
all the networks.
“I think we’re perfectly positioned
to really capture a growing audience in
2012,” Capus says.
To Be Answered in 2012
• What will happen to morning TV
when Matt Lauer and Joe Scarborough
• Can ABC’s GMA or World News finally
creep past NBC’s time-period leaders?
• Will other prominent news talent follow
the defections of Keith Olbermann
and Glenn Beck to smaller outlets?
• Will Roger Ailes’ “course correction”
at Fox News edge it back toward the