Accuracy in Media

CBS CEO Les Moonves commented earlier this week on the future of the nightly news broadcasts and Katie Couric’s contract.

From TVNewser

CBS CEO Les Moonves spoke at the University of Texas Monday, where he accepted an award and addressed students.

While there, he commented candidly on the future of broadcast journalism, and the nightly newscasts in particular.

Among other things, Moonves said that the format of the nightly evening newscasts needs to change–and it will happen sooner rather than later.

He said that he could see the evening newscasts structured more like ABC’s “Nightline,” with an in-depth look at one or two subjects, or like the Sunday morning shows, with a round-table of panelists.

Why change them? It is too expensive to support the newscasts as it stands now, and by the time 6:30 PM rolls around, potential viewers already know the days news.

“People are getting the news elsewhere,” he said. “When there were only three networks, you did have that public service component, where we were informing America. Now, there is nothing that Katie Couric is saying that everybody doesn’t know already.”

He also talked about Couric’s nearly $40 million contract:

“The Katie Couric deal will be the last big deal of that kind ever done. … Those days are over, because the news no longer generates the kind of revenue or success that’s worth doing [those contracts].”

Moonves is on target with his comments but apparently doesn’t want to be the first person to pull the plug or revamp the nightly news, whose ratings have sunk to all-time lows since Couric was hired.

Couric probably knows that her tenure behind the anchor desk is coming to an end when her contract expires next year but she will have a very hard time achieving anything close to the contract she received from CBS even if she returns home to NBC.

Despite Moonves’ realization that there needs to be a change, he and his colleagues at ABC and NBC are still wedded to the evening broadcasts in their current form, and along with the cuts they have made over the years they have only boxed themselves in even more to the old news model.  As long as they continue on this path they will lose what remains of their audience to a combination of cable news and the Internet, which provides fresh news more often and in a livelier format.

For now Moonves looks more like a captain ready to go down with his ship than the innovative CEO he is supposed to be.

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