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Steve Capus, who left NBC News last year after Pat Fili-Krushel was brought in to reorganize the news division, is heading to rival CBS News. Capus was named executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley and executive editor of CBS News, CBS News chairman Jeff Fager announced Tuesday.
He’ll report to CBS News president David Rhodes and begin July 7. He replaces Pat Shevlin, a CBS News veteran who earlier this year moved to 60 Minutes, where she continues to work with Pelley.
Capus spent two decades at NBC News. He led MSNBC and produced Brian Williams‘ newscast at the company’s then nascent cable spinoff. He would go on to produce the NBC Nightly News, first with Tom Brokaw and then with Williams. He was president of NBC News for eight years before resigning in early 2013. When he left, rumors abounded that he would join his former boss and ally Jeff Zucker at CNN. But Capus has lately been executive in residence at IESE Business School.
Rhodes and Capus have been in discussions for several months withe more specific talks about the Evening News role evolving over the last few weeks.
Asked if he called Williams, with whom he had worked since 1986 when they were both at Philadelphia affiliate WCAU, Capus told THR he did give his former colleagues at NBC News a “heads up.”
“There’s no question that the friendship will endure,” said Capus. “I have so much respect for Brian and what he does every night with Nightly News. I think it’s great that we have three terrific nightly news broadcasts and one darn good one on PBS, by the way. That’s good for our beloved profession. It really is. At one of them, a very good friend happens to be the anchor. So I want them to do well. But I’ve got a new home team that has been extremely welcoming. And my allegiances are now on West 57th Street,” he added, referring to address of CBS News headquarters in Manhattan.
In his capacity as executive editor, Capus will be charged with coordinating coverage of big, breaking stories across the news division.
“We don’t coordinate on major and ongoing stories,” admitted Rhodes. “I think we cover them well, we don’t coordinate them well. Sometimes you’re in the field or you’re pursuing a big story and you just need someone to bounce ideas off of. You need people in these places who can make decisions.”
The broadcast has been on a rating uptick since Pelley took over; nothing a gain of six percent so far this season among total viewers. But it is still suck in third behind NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and ABC World News with Diane Sawyer. So far this season, the CBS Evening News is averaging 7.1 million viewers a night compared to 9.3 million for Nightly and 8.3 million for World News.
“I’m so impressed with the quality of the Evening News,” said Capus. “I’m going into a shop that is very, very strong Yes, everybody would like the ratings to be in a different place. There’s only so much you can do to effect that. At the end of the day, my focus will be to make the Evening News as strong from an editorial perspective as it possibly can be. And we hope the audience will respond accordingly.”
In the 25-54 demographic upon which most news programing is sold to advertisers, the race is tightening. Nightly is pulling in 2.3 million viewers compare to World News 2.1 million so far this season. And World News has bested Nightly in the demo for three of the past four weeks. The CBS Evening News is averaging a 1.5 demo rating this season, down 6 percent compared to last season.
Asked if he’s frustrated with the broadcast’s long-standing third-place status, Rhodes responded: “I don’t know that I would say there’s frustration. There isn’t complacency. If we were complacent we wouldn’t be doing a big hire like this. There aren’t a lot of numbers separating these different broadcasts. There just aren’t,” he added. “As these news divisions continue to differentiate in their approach, if we’re smart about it, we ought to be able to be a little more competitive.”