At last night’s Museum of the Moving Image dinner honoring NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams and Scripps Networks CEO Ken Lowe, we caught up with NBC News President Steve Capus to ask him about the network’s new primetime newsmagazine.
The as-yet-untitled broadcast named an executive producer this week in former BBC America producer Rome Hartman, and while Capus said the newsmag doesn’t have a premiere date yet, “it will be ready in the fall.” The timing and unspecified launch suggests the newscast would be a likely candidate to replace a failed primetime show that has to be pulled from the fall schedule.
Williams will host the primetime hour, and NBC clearly sees him as the key to standing out from the newsmagazine crowd, which hasn’t had a new entrant since CBS launched 60 MinutesII in 1998. Capus says Williams will be “very involved” and will “be represented through the entire broadcast, top to bottom,” while leaving an open door to all talent within the NBC news division. “We’re not going to be exclusionary like some other newsmagazines,” he said.
We asked Williams, who will also be managing editor of the newsmagazine, how he plans to juggle another broadcast with his evening newscast and random Daily Show appearances, Late Night slow-jamming and 30 Rock cameos. “The extracurriculars, as I call them, are quick,” he said. “I think an hour a week with correspondents making up most of the stories the way we’ve come to know newsmagazines to be will be fine and not terribly arduous.”
Williams, who called being honored with awards “the strangest, most unnatural feeling,” chose Daily Show host Jon Stewart to introduce him at the MMI dinner. Stewart got plenty of jabs into his presentation, including knocking evening news viewers’ older median age saying, “they check the ratings by going to the obituaries section.” Williams retaliated by cracking plenty of jokes about Stewart’s height when accepting the award.
Before that, Discovery CEO David Zaslav presented to Lowe, calling the Scripps Networks chief a “great entrepreneur” and telling the story of how Lowe started the company back in the early 1990s when no one was making any money in cable. The pair were relieved to present prior to the Stewart/Williams comedy duo, with Lowe saying in his acceptance, “I feel like a human appetizer to Brian’s entrée.”
The black-tie gala the St. Regis Hotel in New York featured a host of TV industry power-players among the 200 attendees, including Rainbow Media CEO Josh Sapan, former NBC president Herb Schlosser, Showtime chief Matt Blank, Hearst Corp. CEO Frank Bennack and Paley Center president Pat Mitchell. Representing the Discovery and Scripps camps were Discovery ad sales president Joe Abruzzese, Investigation Discovery GM Henry Schleiff, Food Network president Brooke Johnson and network star Sandra Lee. In the NBC contingent, B&C spotted NBCU CEO Steve Burke, Nightly News EP Bob Epstein and Saturday Night Live cast members Kristen Wiig and Vanessa Bayer. Comedian Mike Birbiglia provided the dinner’s entertainment.