It’s been said many times in this space how much TV viewing habits have changed—and forced the industry to remake itself on the fly.
“You have to be relevant, you have to be part of the conversation, you have to have a reason for being on television every day,” said CBS News VP and executive producer of CBS This Morning Chris Licht during B&C/Multichannel News’ Business of Live TV Summit last fall.
In 2014, nowhere was that more evident than the TV news industry, as the idea of how and when viewers can find out what’s going on in the world was turned on its head. In some ways it became easier (there are more ways then ever to create content) but harder in other aspects (competition from digital upstarts has usurped some of the old guard’s power).
Here’s a look at what to expect this year from an ever-shifting industry.
All the News That’s Fit to Stream
The TV news industry is undergoing a digital revolution, which only figures to grow in 2015. The need to court younger viewers has put less of an emphasis on primetime newscasts with millennials enjoying myriad ways to get their news beyond the TV set.
Taking a page from Vice News’ playbook, ABC rolled out a new digital initiative called GoStream late last year, which allows its reporters to send in raw video that ABC News then disseminates on its redesigned ABCNews.com/live platform, as well as its mobile apps and Apple TV. ABC News also launched one-minute “Facecasts” on Facebook with new World News anchor David Muir.
MSNBC gets into the act with Shift by MSNBC, an online platform that will house a series of Web-only videos.
Following the success of its widely praised CNNgo app, which merges live viewing with on-demand morsels of recent newscasts and episodes of nonfiction original series, CNN is putting an even greater emphasis on its digital operations. Alex Wellen, the executive who oversaw CNNgo’s launch, heads into 2015 as the network’s first-ever chief product officer.
TV news networks will spend this year battling for their slice of the digital pie.
Uncertain Tomorrow for ‘Today’
NBC News was hoping that 2014 would signal revival for its Today show, but going into 2015, the once-mighty morning show’s future looks cloudier than ever.
NBC News president Deborah Turness had appeared to score a coup poaching Jamie Horowitz from ESPN, but clashes with the crew and anchors were said to lead to Horowitz’s ouster before he really started. Horowitz was believed to have wanted to shake up Today’s anchors, including dropping Savannah Guthrie and Willie Geist and demoting Natalie Morales.
So, after dropping the man who was brought in to end Today’s two- year ratings slump, where does the show go from here?
The messy breakup only puts the spotlight on Turnessand Patricia Fili, the chair of the NBCUniversal News Group, as the division’s once-strong footing appears to be slipping.
Longtime Sunday morning ratings leader Meet the Press had its own upheaval as host David Gregory departed in favor of MSNBC’s Chuck Todd. And despite a newsworthy November that saw the midterm elections and social unrest in Ferguson, Mo., MSNBC, the only network that month to see a dip from the previous year, languished far behind competitors Fox News and CNN.
Even stalwart Nightly News has seen its lead over rival World News Tonight lessen, as the ABC program took over the adults 25-54 news demo lead and—until a Nielsen error reversed it—snapped Nightly News’ five-year winning streak among total viewers.
In ABC’s ‘View,’ News, Entertainment Mix
In one of his biggest moves as new chairman of Disney-ABCTV group, Ben Sherwood handed oversight of daytime staple The View to ABC News in the hopes that the division’s president James Goldston and his right-hand man Tom Cibrowski could breathe new life into the struggling show.
Placing The View under ABC News’ purviewc ontinues the network’s blend of entertainment and news, something ABC has done a lot with Good Morning America—which many credit for the show’s winning streak. ABC is not alone: NBC’s Nightly News featured segments on the network’s live staging of Peter Pan (an easy get, considering News anchor Brian Williams and his Pan star daughter, Allison).
Jeff Zucker’s turnaround of CNN has largely been on the back of original series such as Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and newcomers from Mike Rowe, John Walsh and Lisa Ling.
Networks Feeling Presidential
The midterm elections may be only months in the books and 2015 has just started, but the news networks figure to spend plenty of airtime looking ahead to the presidential race one year from now.
Shortly after the midterm elections, cable news networks were already discussing who may or may not run for the White House when Barack Obama vacates. A wide-open field among the Republicans—with Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio expected to run—and the possibility that Hilary Clinton will take another run at the job should set up an intriguing 18 months.
Bush got the ball rolling when he announced on Facebook Dec. 16 that he would “actively explore” a presidential run.
Much like a romantic comedy, this year will see a lot of “will-they-or-won’t-they” talk about potential candidates, and the competition between the networks to broadcast politicians announcing their intentions will be as fierce as any race for the White House.