Sean McManus is looking forward to January.
That, of course, is when the evening news race welcomes a new entrant, as Diane Sawyer takes over for Charles Gibson at ABC’s World News. And anchor transitions in the staid arena of network nightly news can lead to viewer sampling.
At least that’s what McManus, president of CBS’ news and sports divisions, is banking on.
“I think it’s an opportunity for everybody,” he says, “because when there is a change in one of anchors people sample more and switch around more. And I think if people sample our broadcast more they’ll like what they see.”
To that end, McManus and the folks at CBS News have been busy polishing the CBS Evening News With Katie Couric brand, including beefing up Afghanistan coverage and launching Couric’s Webcast, @katiecouric. Last week the network announced a new CBS Reports project Where America Stands. The multiplatform initiative will look at a host of challenges facing the country, including health care, education, employment, financial security, immigration and terror threat assessment.
Where America Stands kicks off in January across all CBS News programs: The CBS Evening News, Early Show, Face the Nation, Sunday Morning and CBS News Radio and CBSNews.com.
“I think everybody will be much more on their game in January,” McManus says. “Everybody will be trying hard. I think that’s good for the viewers. And I think if we get more sampling it will be good for CBS News also. So I look it as an opportunity for everybody to showcase what they do and how well they do it. And in that race, I think we stack up pretty darn well.”
Of course, much of the commentary about Sawyer’s ascension to the anchor chair has predictably focused on the competition between Sawyer and Couric, who faced each other in morning television when Couric was at NBC’s Today,and the new gender paradigm that will soon turn NBC’s Brian Williams into the odd man out.
But as Williams pointed out during a recent conversation, “It’s too close an industry not to be friends.” (See related article, “Brian Williams: Leno, Yes, Twitter, No.”)
“Everybody knows everybody,” he said. “And everyone has worked in every shop.”
Indeed, the revolving door of television news can make for strange bedfellows. Rick Kaplan, Couric’s executive producer at Evening News, is an ABC News veteran who launched the newsmagazine PrimetimeLive, with Sawyer as the primary anchor. That now-unholy union is commemorated in a photograph in Kaplan’s CBS News office–for now anyway.
“I’ve asked security to remove the photo,” McManus says. “They have not yet accommodated me.”