Turning Five, ‘CBS This Morning’ Ponders Next Five Years

Network a.m. program started from nothing and has grown into a worthwhile competitor to ‘GMA’ and ‘Today’
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CBS This Morning hits its fifth anniversary Jan. 9, and the broadcast has come a long way since the early days of 2012. But the principals at CBS News are more focused on where the show is going than where it’s been.  

David Rhodes, CBS News president, says the program’s harder-news focus is a key differentiator in the morning. “Look at us versus all the others at 8 or 8:30, the topics we’re talking about,” he says, citing recent interviews with former defense secretary Robert Gates and political scientist Ian Bremmer. “We’re doing things in those places that no one else is doing, and that’s what people are coming for.”

Make no mistake—CBS This Morning is well off the pace in the morning. But ratings are growing at a time when those at Today and Good Morning America are shrinking. CBS This Morning finished the 2011-2012 season averaging 2.52 million total viewers (1.03 million in 25-54) and sits at 3.67 million and 1.08 million now. In 2011-2012, Today was at 5.34 million total viewers (2.36 million in 25-54) and GMA 4.94 million (1.96 million in the demo). These days, Today sits at 4.71 million (1.83 million) and GMA is a flat 4.94 million, but down to 1.68 million in the key demo.

“There’s definitely a sense of pride that’s been present for years,” says Ryan Kadro, executive producer of CBS This Morning. “We know we produce a really good product. The fact that the last three years the numbers start to reflect that is very satisfying.”

Both Rhodes and Kadro cite the chemistry of the morning team—Charlie Rose, Gayle King, Norah O’Donnell—as key to CBS’ morning emergence. Rose and King started at launch in 2012, while O’Donnell came on board that summer. Much was made of the pairing of Rose and King at first, but you don’t hear that any more.

“We found a way to deliver the news and also have fun and be entertaining,” King says.

Look for our cover story in the Jan. 9 issue about how CBS News got its morning show moving forward and what’s next for it.

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