2. Steve Capus
President of NBC News
Last year’s rank: 2
Why he was chosen: NBC News’ status on this year’s power list is No. 2 with a few question marks. It remains the network news division to beat in the key ratings races, but there are nagging signs of increasing vulnerability for the network that has long owned the big national news events.
ABC News did the unthinkable and attracted more viewers on Election Night 2006. Then NBC’s news division took the biggest hit in the “NBCU 2.0” cost-cutting campaign. MSNBC, now wholly owned rather than a 50-50 partnership with Microsoft, is expected to be extremely profitable this year.
The financial impact of the decision last week to cancel the MSNBC simulcast of Don Imus’ CBS Radio show, itself axed Thursday, is yet to be known. All week, the furor had consumed NBC News, which declared the remarks “abhorrent” but had to that point tolerated the politically incorrect humor that is the trademark of Mr. Imus and his crew. Whatever MSNBC puts in the 6 to 9 a.m. weekday block newswise is unlikely to pull in as big an audience as the 361,000 viewers attracted by Imus in the first quarter.
In the meantime, there’s a need to reverse the ratings erosion on “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams,” which, until its recent change of executive producers, was looking a bit like Satchel Paige: not looking back for fear of seeing ABC’s “World News With Charles Gibson” gaining on it.
“Today” remains NBC’s reigning cash cow, but it’s fending off the perception that its weekday editions are less solid than when Katie Couric shared the couch with Matt Lauer. That raises the ante on the plan to stretch the morning franchise to a fourth hour next fall. Former football star Tiki Barber debuts as a “Today” contributor this morning.
“Dateline NBC” has proved that if a newsmagazine wants to snag more viewers, it should catch an Internet sexual predator.
The news division was an early adopter of digital platforms for extending the distribution of its programming and raising the profiles of its talent, from on-demand encores after West Coast broadcasts and podcasting to blogs by its personnel.