Now that CBS execs are fairly certain Katie Couric is staying anchored at the evening news desk they have decided to place their energy into bolstering their other last place news show—“The Early Show.”
Have you heard of it? Seriously, if you look at the ratings you have to wonder if people even know it is on the air. CBS News execs are now hoping to change that. Just a few days ago they made a public announcement saying they are looking to make the perennially last-place morning program more competitive by revamping its format and abandoning the way it currently allows stations to air mostly local news between 7 and 8 a.m. According to the show’s executive producer, we (that’s provided you watch) will be able to see the new format and other “significant changes” on “The Early Show,” beginning January 1, 2008.
Having worked in local television news (2 years at an ABC affiliate, 4 years at a CBS affiliate and 6 years at a NBC affiliate) and specifically on the morning shows two of them, I have to say that CBS’ change is long overdue. If you are a regular viewer of NBC’S “Today” show or ABC’s “Good Morning America” then you know that both feature news segments for most of their program and allow two five-minute inserts for local news during the 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. hours. In most parts of the country “The Early Show” follows the same format. However, at 43 stations (which makes up 20% of the CBS audience) “The Early Show” is only being seen for an hour at 8 a.m. As you can imagine it’s hard to compete with the big dogs (NBC and ABC) when you have a format like that.
“Early Show” producers say the change in format is a way to help gain more viewers. Currently, the show is a distant third in the ratings (all CBS morning news shows have been for decades). But the network is quick to point out that “The Early Show” ratings this year are up 1%, while “Today” is down 8% and “GMA” is down 3% in the same period. Though to keep those numbers in perspective you have to realize that “Today” routinely doubles “The Early Show” audience.
Personally, I don’t know how much the new format is going to help “The Early Show,” though I know for a fact it won’t hurt it. As for grabbing the attention of additional viewers… I think Harry Smith does a fine job on the show and Julie Chen is more than tolerable (despite my personal feelings that her hosting “Big Brother” diminishes her credibility as a news anchor)… but will the show ever top “Today?” I suppose nothing is impossible.
So, do you watch “The Early Show?”