CBS Decides On a New Approach to Beef Up Its Morning Show and It’s Sure to Tick Off Some Local Affiliates

Poor CBS. You name it and they’ve done it in an effort to make their Morning Show competitive with NBC and ABC. They’ve had some great combinations of people in the morning and even tried to bring over folks from the competition. Nothing has worked. Now, according to an item sent to me from RS down in Alabama, CBS is going to try a move that they hope will help them go head to head with the big dogs. They’re going to reclaim the 7-o’clock hour (Central time). Here’s the item as sent to me.

CBS Pushes to Compete With `Early Show’

NEW YORK – CBS News is looking to make its perennially last-place morning program more competitive in the ratings by abandoning the format that allows stations to air mostly local news between 7 and 8 a.m.

The new format and other “significant changes” on “The Early Show,” will debut Jan. 1, 2008, CBS News President Sean McManus said.

NBC’S “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” both feature national news and segments for most of their program, and two five-minute inserts for local news during the 7 a.m. hour. For most of the country that watches “The Early Show,” the format is the same.

But that relationship is flipped at 43 stations covering 20 percent of the CBS audience. Two brief national inserts air during the 7 a.m. hour (the first at 7:18) with “The Early Show” only being seen for an hour at 8 a.m.

“It’s hard to get any kind of national image for the program with the format the way it is,” McManus told The Associated Press.

The format also frustrates producers and affects the 80 percent of the country that uses the full program. They say there is little flexibility to let a strong interview run longer, or cut a bad one short, under rules that require commercials just before those breaks.

“It’s almost impossible to explain to any rational person,” said Steve Friedman, the show’s executive producer.

The Early Show” is a distant third in the ratings, as all CBS morning news shows have been for decades. But the network senses vulnerability in its rivals. “The Early Show” ratings this year are up 1 percent, while “Today” is down 8 percent and “GMA” down 3 percent in the same period, according to Nielsen Media Research.

While “Today” routinely doubles “The Early Show” audience, the NBC powerhouse recorded its smallest average audience last week in 11 years.

The change, however, will be a hardship for many of the affiliates that use the blended format, which is done in such cities as Baltimore and Las Vegas. The local news there gets higher ratings than any national CBS morning show has ever received; the format was devised a decade ago to help these stations earn more money.

Some affiliates are upset that CBS News, a division of CBS Corp., announced this change without negotiating a deal to soften the financial blow, said Scott Blumenthal, chairman of the CBS affiliate board and an executive at Lin Television, which owns seven CBS stations.

“I would hope that CBS sees the value of keeping these relationships strong,” he said.

Besides the financial considerations, the affiliates are still not clear what the new format will be, he said. It’s also not clear how many – if any – of the affiliates will be able to resist if it doesn’t want the new format.

McManus said CBS would work with the affected affiliates to give them more commercial revenue. “For most stations, this will be a better deal,” he said.

For Friedman, the change can’t come soon enough.

“It’s really no way to do a show,” he said.

I would imagine that some affiliates, which have managed to do well in the mornings in spite of what CBS offers, have to be fuming. After building an audience over the years, they’re being told they have to give up the ground they’ve fought for. I’m not sure how all of this works (perhaps The GM can weigh in on this) and what obligations the locals have to the network. I’m sure the reaction for some will be along the lines the NBC affiliates had when the Today show announced they were planning to add a fourth hour in the morning. On one hand, this move could help the CBS morning show if the network is able to build on the success of a powerful local morning broadcast. And it will free up the staff of local affiliates an hour earlier so they can begin planning for the next day’s show or the anchors will now have time to go out and turn a news piece for the day, start writing for the next show or more realistically, go out and pick up breakfast for everybody. After all, you only need one anchor to do the local cut-ins that CBS will provide. On the other hand, the local affiliates may have some long-term sponsor agreements that will have to be changed and that could mean less money. I’m not sure what recourse the affiliates have when it comes to bucking what the network wants but you can bet that there are going to be some unhappy campers somewhere.

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11 Comments on “CBS Decides On a New Approach to Beef Up Its Morning Show and It’s Sure to Tick Off Some Local Affiliates”

  1. Richard Says:

    Speaking for myself, I would like to see less of WREG’s morning news and more of CBS’s Early Show. How many times does WREG expect us to sit and watch Todd Dermers and Corie Ventura do their routines at what seems like every five minutes?
    Not to mention the same news stories and video clips over and over and over.

    It will be a welcome change for me although I do wish CBS would get a different announcer to hype the Early Show. That woman’s voice is irratating to me!

  2. Doug J. Says:

    Although it was good when you were doing the same stories over and over Joe. Really.

    As far as the CBS Morning Show revamp, bring back Walter Cronkite and Charlamagne the Lion puppet (circa 1954)… I know Walt’s still around. The puppet is probably in a box somewhere.

  3. JD Says:

    You are wrong Doug! Bring back Happy Hal, Little Bo, Curly the Hedgehog and the gang! How about Poindexter or Ima the Emu? What about Poncie the Lion? I know Bernie Mintz is still around!

    Better still…………Mike Matthews and his sidekick Handy Andy Wise?

    AWWW Now……Just Funnin’!

  4. JD Says:

    Big OOOps! I forgot………Trent Wood is still around too , only he lives out west somewhere! He was one of the great Memphis TV, Radio and “For Hire” Emcees in the Mid South. (He was the keeper of Looney Zoo at Channel 5, before it moved to City Hall.

  5. Doug J. Says:

    Hmmm…. Mike & Andy. The Watchgdog and the Bulldog. JD, it’s just crazy enough to work!

  6. The GM Says:

    Regarding the network taking back this hour of programming for their use, the affiliates are not happy but there is not much they can do. While I do not manage a CBS affiliate I am familar enough to know that their affiliation agreement probably has a recapture clause for that hour. CBS is exercising that option.

    It is not good for the local affiliate because they went from owning all of the inventory in that hour (and in the case of the station down on the river) with higher ratings and better performance than what the CBS Early Show offers. So instead of having 24 thirty-second avails for the hour at a decent rating, they’ll get about 8 to sell at a lower rating.

    Will this help the CBS Early Show? Other than GMA and Today shutting down and going dark, not much can help that show.

    The GM

  7. The GM Says:

    By the way, the fastest growing local day part in terms of revenue and ratings is early morning news. The AM shows are very profitable at the #1 and #2 stations in each market.

    The GM

  8. b Says:

    does this mean the end of the peabody place studio?

  9. joelarkins Says:

    To my knowledge, it should not have any bearing on the studio at Peabody Place which is primarily for Live at 9. No, CBS just wants their 7’oclock hour back.

  10. GR Says:

    Speaking of the Peabody Place studio, why does News channel 3 not utilize the peabody place studio for First at Four/NC at 4:30 anymore? I see them rarely there, maybe once a month. Weren’t those newscasts supposed to be broadcasted from Peabody Place?

  11. joelarkins Says:

    I would imagine it’s a logistics/bottom line type thing. Getting talent and a production crew down to PP is a real pain. I would imagine if they could figure out a way to do the Live at 9 gig from the WREG studio they would do that and pull the plug on the whole Peabody Place thing. IMHO that whole PP shingdig was the brainchild of a former GM who longed for the days of when WREG used to broadcast from the basement of the Peabody. He’s gone, the NYTimes pocketbook is gone and should Live at 9 ever fold, the PP studio will be gone.


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