Last week Scott Pelley made his much anticipated debut behind the anchor desk replacing the now departed Katie Couric, but the ratings came in below expectations.
While Pelley managed to attract the same total audience numbers as Couric at 5.7 million, he fell far short in the key A25-54 demographic with just 1.3 million versus the 1.77 million Couric averaged during her last four full weeks on the air.
Normally a new anchor attracts more attention initially from curious viewers. But Pelley not only failed to add to Couric’s numbers, he also fell behind those of interim anchor Harry Smith.
Pelley also failed to gain ground in a week where the ABC Evening News was pre-empted for many viewers by the NBA Finals on Tuesday and Thursday, and ratings leader NBC was without Brian Williams for much of the week.
Toss in the Weiner press conference on the same day that Pelley made his debut and it was the perfect storm for a big ratings win and the bragging rights that accompany a victory.
But instead of leading with the Weiner confessional, CBS chose to wait until nearly the halfway point of the program to mention it. No wonder they lost nearly a third of the A25-54 demographic.
One week isn’t a trend. But the inability of CBS to take advantage when the competition wasn’t at full strength could mean that the network has decided on a risky strategy. It looks like CBS’s plan to regain the glory days of Walter Cronkite is to once again have a brainy, but not very high-profile, anchor, and hope that over time people will be attracted to that.