Norah O’Donnell told viewers on Monday that CBS Evening News was starting a “new era” with its first broadcast since officially moving to Washington, D.C., the only broadcast network newscast to locate at the capital.
CBS is hoping that the move distinguishes the broadcast from ABC World News Tonight with David Muir and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, both of which beat CBS Evening News in the ratings. In the week of Nov. 18, World News Tonight drew 8.8 million total viewers, compared to 7.9 million for NBC and 5.6 million for CBS.
The move to D.C. has been in the works since O’Donnell was named anchor of the broadcast. After she started in July, she has landed interviews with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, among others. The network also hopes that the move will help draw more big gets given the proximity to the White House and lawmakers. O’Donnell also has roots in D.C.: She was a longtime White House correspondent and is married to chef and restaurateur Geoff Tracy.
CBS News also tapped Jay Shaylor to serve as executive producer of the broadcast. He had been EP of The Situation Room on CNN. In a statement, he said that the move “allows Norah to bring viewers the heart of the story from the center of where everything is happening.”
To make room for the broadcast, the CBS News bureau on M Street went through a renovation to make way for the studio.
Network newscasts typically are based in New York, hough David Brinkley co-anchored NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report from Washington and Frank Reynolds co-anchored from the capital during the early years of World News Tonight.
“Thanks to the CBS News team that made this possible,” O’Donnell said at the end of the broadcast, with an image of the Capitol as a backdrop.
CBS Evening News has now made the full transition to Norah O'Donnell as anchor: After her debut in July, the newscast made a move to its permanent location earlier this week, distinguishing itself as the only network evening news broadcast from Washington.
On a new set at the CBS M Street bureau, executive producer Jay Shaylor, who joined in October from CNN, walked through some of its virtual features, including a giant floor screen. “The set is a spectacular,” Shaylor said, adding that it is designed to pull in data, graphics and video “using some brand new technology that other folks don’t have that will allow us to show off some really interesting storytelling.”
But Evening News has a ways to go before catching up to competitors at NBC and ABC. In the most recent November sweeps period, the newscast was in third place, with an average audience of 5.78 million viewers, compared to 8.95 million for World News Tonight and 8.16 million for NBC Nightly News. Compared to a year ago, when Jeff Glor anchored the newscast, CBS Evening News was down by 8%, World News Tonight was up by 3% and NBC Nightly News was down 4%.
The newscast's season to date average is 5.45 million viewers —- but CBS executives say they are encouraged that Evening News numbers are moving in the right direction. According to Nielsen, the newscast grew 33% in adults 25-54 and 15% since her launch.
Monday's broadcast in the new studio was the most watched since O'Donnell's debut, with 6.44 million total viewers and 1.23 million among adults 25-54, higher than the season-to-date average and 15% higher than her debut. Yet by another measure that rivals point out, CBS was down 3% that night versus a year earlier, while NBC and ABC each rose by 2% and 6%, respectively.
The hyper-competitive ratings are just one measurement for the evening broadcasts —- the other are the big “gets.”
O'Donnell has landed some recent high profile interviews for 60 Minutes and CBS This Morning, including Saudi Crown Prince Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and former Vice President Joe Biden in his first major network sitdown interview since the start of the unfolding Ukraine scandal.
Deadline recently spoke to Shaylor about the move, the ratings outlook and how the newscast plans to draw in younger audiences at a time of big changes in viewing habits.
DEADLINE: With the move, will we start to see more stories with a Washington vantage point?
SHAYLOR: The advantage that it gives us is we can reach out to to newsmakers, lawmakers, cabinet secretaries, the president directly, and can do interviews quickly. We’re not traveling an...
CBS is launching a month-long sequence of Sunday movie nights in May, featuring five contemporary classic movies to keep viewers entertained while they stay indoors. The network announced that the weekly programing event will kick off on May 3 and will feature two “Indiana Jones” films, “Forrest Gump,” the first “Mission: Impossible,” and “Titanic.” The titles all hail from Paramount Pictures' library, which is also part of the ViacomCBS family.
“It's a five-week programming event with epic films, iconic stars and brilliant stories that viewers love...and love to watch together,” Noriko Kelley, an executive vice president at CBS Entertainment, said in a statement.
As for newer projects, CBS made headlines yesterday when the company announced that it would air a special pandemic episode of “All Rise.” The Simone Missick-led legal drama's upcoming episode will be shot using various social media platforms and online technologies and the production will abide by social distancing guidelines.
ViacomCBS is one of numerous entertainment companies that have been broadly impacted by current events and are starting to experiment with different forms and schedules for their offerings. The company has halted production on shows ranging from “The Amazing Race” to “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful,” and other companies and studios have followed suit for their own projects. CBS' May film programming will replace the original episodes of “Love Island” that were scheduled for May 24 and May 31; the status of the reality series is up in the air to the ongoing pandemic.
CBS previously ran a “CBS Sunday Movie” franchise that ended in the 2004-2005 television season.
IndieWire is keeping track of all film and television industry-related events and projects that have been impacted by the pandemic. IndieWire is also documenting all of the positive news to come out of the outbreak and also has a list of resources available to entertainment industry workers in need of aid.
The schedule for CBS' upcoming May Sunday movie night programming is as follows:
May 3: “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” 8-11 p.m., ET/PT
May 10: “Forrest Gump” 8-11 p.m., ET/PT
May 17: “Mission: Impossible” 8-11 p.m., ET/PT
May 24: “Titanic” 7-11 p.m., ET/PT
May 31: “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” 8-11 p.m., ET/PT