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CBS News is rebooting its streaming service, overhauling its entire programming slate in a bid to capture TV news viewership that is expected to shift online in the coming years.
“In the old days digital was a separate little thing, well now it is the tip of the spear,” CBS News and stations co-president Neeraj Khemlani tells The Hollywood Reporter in an interview. “Every anchor, every reporter says ‘I want in.’ You also have an audience that is in their low 40s. This is not taking a lot of persuasion, we are at the right moment and right time to bring these things together.”
“It is an embarrassment of riches at CBS News, you have the most iconic franchises and brands and IP,” Khemlani adds, noting that some things have just been “sitting in the vault” waiting to be tapped.
And so some classic CBS News programming is being revived for the streaming service (which originally launched as CBSN in 2014), while some of its TV shows and other popular segments are being reimagined as full-fledged streaming series.
Person-To-Person, the interview series launched by Edward R. Murrow in 1953, will be brought back with CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell at the helm. And CBS Reports, the documentary series that originally debuted in 1959, will be revived as a series that takes “a deeper dive into the key issues that are driving the national and global conversation,” per CBS. CBS Mornings‘ Gayle King will lead the premiere episode on Feb. 25 with a special exploring the death of Trayvon Martin 10 years later.
Meanwhile, CBS Sunday Morning will get a streaming presence through a series called Here Comes The Sun. Other series include Eye On America, led by CBS Saturday Morning anchor Michelle Miller, The Uplift, hosted by CBS Mornings co-host Tony Dokoupil, On The Road with Steve Hartmann, which will take the recurring TV segment and turn it into a regular series, The Dish, which is a streaming adaptation of CBS Saturday Morning‘s cooking segments, Climate Watch, and Moneywatch.
During the day, a rotating lineup of CBS anchors and correspondents (including Vladimir Duthiers, Jeff Glor, and Dana Jacobson, among others) will anchor news hours, with a Washington D.C.-based program Red And Blue taking over the 6 pm hour. 7 pm will feature another news hour, while the primetime hours will include the streaming originals (like Person-To-Person) as well as content from shows like 60 Minutes and 48 Hours. The CBS Evening News will stream in its entirety at 10 pm. The national, newly titled CBS News Streaming service will also operate out of a new studio built for it at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York.
“I think the state of our business and our business strategy right now is, how do we strengthen and optimize the business that is still very TV-centric, while positioning our brands, our products, our content for the business of tomorrow,” CBS News and Stations co-president Wendy McMahon says. “We think of it as our ability to bring to market the tremendous broadcast reach vehicle we have as a CBS television station, married with these local streams that provide addressable and targeted advertising opportunities, those items together make us an extremely powerful offering in the marketplace.”
But Khemlani acknowledges that when it comes to figuring out what programming works on streaming “the honest answer is that we are testing.”
“CBS News prides itself on being balanced, and not doing opinion,” he adds. “So when we look at our primetime programming, it is leaning into our strengths of original reporting and exquisite storytelling, and that is what keeps CBS News separate, when we do that well we win. We have no desire to change that formula, it is just sharing it with more people.”
CBS also announced an expansion of its streaming local news offerings, with CBS News Miami launching Monday, and CBS News Detroit to launch by the end of 2022, bringing the total number of local news streaming services to 14. McMahon tells THR that they will be expanding the number of live news hours from 30,000 in 2021 to 45,000 by the end of 2022
“From a news and public service strategy, we understand that our audiences are changing, we see that our communities are evolving, if our purpose is to empower and connect our communities one neighborhood at a time, then we must be able to tell the stories of our neighborhoods across platforms,” McMahon says.
“Viewers are putting together their own bundle of sorts, and we want to ensure that we are part of that bundle, and that they choose us over and over again.”
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