ABC News will launch a third advertiser-supported weekday hour of its 32-year-old morning-show "Good Morning America" on the Web Tuesday, one week before rival NBC's "Today" show unveils its fourth TV hour.
The additional "GMA" hour will debut as a broadband-only program titled "Good Morning America Now."
Chris Cuomo, the news anchor for "Good Morning America" on the ABC broadcast network, will be the principal anchor of the new show. It will be shot on the downstairs "subway" set at "GMA's" Times Square studio.
The program comes at a time when TV news divisions increasingly are making their efforts that work, like "GMA," work harder by exploiting them in new platforms and time periods.
The full version of "Good Morning America Now" will be available only to subscribers to one of ABC News Now's digital services or partners, which include Comcast, Sprint, Verizon, Charter, RCN and MobiTV. Video-on-demand for ABC News Now is available via ABCNews.com. Segments of "GMA Now" will be available to all Internet users.
The ABC News Now broadband news channel claims more than 28 million Internet subscribers, 5 million mobile subscribers and more than 1 million cable subscribers to operators who carry it as a linear channel. The 8 a.m. to noon Monday-through-Saturday version of "GMA" that ABC News and XM Satellite Radio launched in January 2006 will continue.
"GMA Now" is an unexpected answer to the rhetorical question posed in promotions for the XM version of the show: "Want more 'Good Morning America'? We know you do."
Despite the timing, the decision to add the third hour was made independently from "Today's" long-discussed decision to launch a fourth hour, according to Jessica Stedman Guff, the ABC News Now executive producer taking the lead on "GMA Now."
"We of course are aware of what our competition is doing. We respect what our competition is doing," Ms. Stedman Guff said.
"We are innovating," she added. "We are building on what is a very, very robust and revered brand that is a part of people's lives. It's very exciting to be able to extend that brand into the growth area in people's lives, the Internet and mobile entertainment."
The executive producer told TelevisionWeek the content and target audience for the third hour will be similar to what she aimed for during her three years as senior broadcast producer of the second hour of "GMA."
"I always used to say when I was at 'GMA' that our viewers have teenagers. Our viewers are single. Our viewers are a very diverse group but not people with little kids, because people with little kids are otherwise engaged in the morning [and not watching much] television," the executive producer said.
"GMA Now" will not simply replay "GMA" segments. "GMA Now" will be built of taped segments with live news headlines and AccuWeather segments. The updates will be made throughout the day, inserted at the top of and midway through the program.
It will offer extended versions of everything from, for example, the seven minutes of a Diane Sawyer interview with Lisa Marie Presley that didn't make the broadcast network show, or additional products or tips in news-you-can-use segments. Cameras also have been introduced in the XM-"GMA" booth for the first time in order to tape host Hilarie Barsky conducting her own interviews with "GMA" guests. The mix will include music from acts appearing on the live broadcast "GMA," so third-hour viewers will get fresh questions and answers with guests they might have seen on a previous live "GMA."
Also expected to be featured prominently, live "GMA" commitments permitting, is globe-trotting weatherman Sam Champion. He will get whole segments for the "Just One Thing" environmentally friendly franchise that is incorporated into weather blocks on the mother show.
"He'll be able to do more of what's close to his heart," said Ms. Stedman Guff, who has let other "GMA" principals know "we can take their passions and give them more space."
While "GMA Now" will work closely with "GMA" producers, it will be staffed by ABC News Now. It is an example of why ABC News President David Westin recently announced that some 35 broadcast-side positions would be cut in order to commit more resources to the digital efforts of the division.
"We have our own director, our own senior producer and our own floor producers," Ms. Stedman Guff said.
Mr. Cuomo has hosted ABC News Now programs before.
"Chris is really very much a member of the generation that gets its news at all times, whenever, wherever, however. He's the perfect fit demographically with the audience we believe we'll attract with this service," Ms. Stedman Guff said.
When he is not available, Mr. Champion and Bianna Golodryga, who joined ABC News Now from CNBC and graduated to "GMA" family member this summer, will be candidates to fill in.
ABC News declined to name advertisers who have signed on for "GMA Now," which will have built-in commercial breaks. Nor was there any information about commercial rates.
"There is no doubt in anyone's mind, least of all Madison Avenue, that this is the future. Early adopters and maverick advertisers can claim a piece of it now," said Ms. Stedman Guff, who will not be involved in the broadband sales effort.
There is one aspect of "GMA Now" that ABC executives expect to appeal to advertisers.
A mobile subscriber who watched, say, Emeril Lagasse make a dish or a Good Housekeeping expert give advice on care of hardwood floors, but who cannot remember which products were recommended, will be able to punch up on a cell phone the specific segment on demand.
"I can be standing in the aisle at the supermarket and I can call up that segment and, voila, I know what products to buy," Ms. Stedman Guff said. "That to me is really exciting. Viewers are hungry for information they can take to the store. We will make that even easier for them."
The "GMA Now" promotional and marketing campaign, which, like the third hour, will include a viewer-interactive element, will begin rolling out this week and reach full force in mid September.
Comment from ABC affiliates board chairman Ray Cole was not available at deadline.
Ms. Stedman Guff said affiliates are aware of the third-hour plan.
"In many ways we feel the affiliates welcome this. I think they always wanted to see us do more with the brand, but they were conflicted because the affiliates have such strong shows in the 9 o'clock time slot across the country that there wasn't the hunger there might be at some other networks for another hour of the morning show," Ms. Stedman Guff said.
"They welcome the extension of the franchise and they appreciate the fact that we are not asking them to give up something that's working for them in broadcast," she said.