CBS ‘Early Show’ Format Shift Part of Bigger Revamp

Jul 8, 2007  •  Post A Comment

In January, CBS News will take another stab at making its third-ranked “The Early Show” more competitive.
CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus said he plans to abandon the so-called blended format, under which about 40 network affiliates carry equal amounts of local and network content during the first hour of the two-hour program.
That format, born of compromises made between the network and stations in the 1990s, is holding “The Early Show” back, Mr. McManus said, forcing it to delay some big stories and cut short others. So the blended approach joins a half-century of changes in titles, anchors and executive producers that have failed to lift the CBS morning show out of deep third place.
Mr. McManus said he is determined to gain the flexibility to move around commercial time within “The Early Show” that his competitors have. That latitude in placing commercials lets them run stories at the lengths that best suits them.
“It’s really difficult to produce a fully competitive show when you have [so many] hard in and out times during the program, and when 20 percent of the country isn’t seeing some of our most important segments,” said Mr. McManus, who said approximately 20 percent of the country’s TV homes still get the blended format of “The Early Show.”
In recent years, NBC’s No. 1-ranked “Today” regularly slid commercials to the end of its first block so that it could run seamlessly from one major story to another, a strategy ABC’s “Good Morning America” also adopted.
Although specific data is difficult to come by, partly because advertising may be sold in bundles that involve more than just one show, “Today” and “GMA” are thought to earn more than $550 million in ad revenues annually, while “The Early Show’s” take is thought to be more than $260 million.
The January switch is part of a renewed effort at CBS to make the show more popular, Mr. McManus said, declining to discuss how extensive other changes to the show might be. He said he closely watches each edition of “The Early Show.”
The elimination of the blended format has been expected for several years, as the network negotiated new affiliation agreements that made clear local stations would be obligated to carry the network show in whole when the blended format was discontinued.
CBS affiliates who have suffered for a long time, lagging behind NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America,” would be pleased to see the show improved. For some stations, however, the changes Mr. McManus is contemplating may bring a period of financial sacrifice.
Like many station executives and analysts, Mr. McManus expects the format change set to take place Jan. 7 to produce a short-term loss of perhaps 0.2 or 0.3 ratings points as viewers adjust.
“Every tenth of a point in the demo brings in a serious amount of money,” said Jim Murphy, the senior executive producer of “Good Morning America” who used to be executive producer of “CBS This Morning,” the predecessor to “The Early Show.”
How long that period of adjustment may last can’t be predicted. That hit is mediated by the fact that after the change, “The Early Show” finally will be able to get nationally rated by Nielsen Media Research for all but about 10 minutes of the first hour, the most-watched time slot for all the network morning shows.
“Hopefully we will start to get some traction in the numbers that will make it a more salable program for them and a program they can be more proud of when they take the show to the marketplace,” Mr. McManus said.
CBS affiliates also can adjust their schedules to mitigate any losses.
“While some stations will take a big hit initially, many are looking to shift resources to an earlier start for local news in an effort to recoup the lost revenue,” said Steve Ridge, executive VP of Frank N. Magid Associates. “Ultimately, if CBS can improve its standing in the morning, both the network and the affiliates stand to benefit.”
The blended-format compromise didn’t hurt all affiliates.
“Obviously, stations that have been doing a blended show were doing so because they thought it was to their advantage,” Katz Television Group VP Bill Carroll said.
The format essentially allowed affiliates to program locally the first 15 minutes of “The Early Show’s” first half-hour and second half-hour. Affiliates finally picked up the network show for the second hour except for five-minute local widows known as co-ops at the end of each of the last two half-hours.
CBS implicitly acknowledged that the structure might be ungainly in the memo that introduced the plan some 11 years ago at the network’s headquarters. The document’s title? “A Camel Is a Horse Made by a Committee.” “We went and created the camel,” said Mr. Murphy, who was executive producer of “CBS This Morning” at the time. “It was a very difficult thing to build and to explain to people.”
The plan’s limitations became apparent over the next year, he said.
“We did what they wanted,” Mr. Murphy said. “Was it a good television show? No. It was awful.”
But the move was justified in part by corporate considerations. Westinghouse owned CBS at the time and held some very strong major-market stations that benefited from having more control over two hours that were potentially more lucrative to stations than to the network, which had not stumbled on a winning format for a morning program.
In New Orleans, Belo-owned WWL-TV has stuck with its powerful local morning show, but it has been carrying “The Early Show” on MyNetworkTV-affiliated WLUP-TV, which it acquired this year. The lack of ratings since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast makes it difficult to assess what kind of following “The Early Show” has attracted.


  1. why don’t you have a black anchor?

  2. I really like The Early Show and hope your changes do not include getting rid of Harry, Hannah, Julie, Dave or Russ. We even journeyed to Bar Harbor, ME in August to see Dave! To me that team is by far the best in the morning.

  3. I’d like to see Paula Zahn back on CBS in the mornings. She and Harry Smith were my favorite team in the 1990s. She is no longer with CNN.

  4. You got rid of the best!! Hannah was delightful and the only reason I watch the early show. She was a wholesome, intelligent reporter. Julie is horrible!!
    Good morning America, here I come.

  5. what happened to hannah storm ?


  7. back to the today show for me — without hannah the early show is terrible — just my opinion

  8. Without Hannah Storm It’s just not the Early Show. Guess I will have to watch Good Morning America

  9. The show is not the same without Hannah Storm. I wish she was back on. Im not sure I will watch it anymore. She was the best.

  10. I have already switched back to the Today show because without Hannah the Early Show just doesn’t cut it.
    Julie is no good as a newscaster! She’s just there because her hubby is a top CBS executive and she is just window dressing.

  11. Have the ratings moved The Earl Show out of the dump yet, or has it become more deeply mired?
    Harry swings his arms like fanatic, moves like a robot and gets into all guests faces.
    Dave is a goof off, bu OK.
    Russ thinks that he is Bryant Gumble and Julie and Maggie are attemptin to live out their unfilled dreams of being runway models.
    Hannah was the only real pro on the show.
    Just my opinions–but I don’t think I’m wrong!

  12. I came to this site to see if Hannah was on vacation…it seems she has been axed from The Early Show. I happened upon this show about a yr ago and really like the mix of host. Oh well, I do hope she does something with the show still, as I thought she and Harry were excellent. Maybe GMA will pick her up, there two women co-host are about as bland as they come!!

  13. Can you tell me what happened to Hannah Storm?
    Is she still with CBS? Thanks Just wanted to know where she is.

  14. Where is Hannah Storm, i miss her a think she made the broadcast.

  15. I loved Hannah Storm and miss seeing her in the mornings please bring her back. I also love dave Price and harry smith. i find myself going to nbc sometimes just because hannah storm is not on cbs

  16. You made a BIG mistake replacing Hannah Storm. The new female anchor is just that, an anchor. Not rememberable. Harrry acts like if he got his hands dirty he’d Panic but Dave is your ace in the hole right now. Julie is OK but she has her hands full with other projects. I watch you every morning but truly miss the warmth and compassion for people that Hannah brougth to the show.

  17. Okay, it has been a year now since CBS got rid of Hannah and I hope it has seen the increase in ratings it was looking for. I know I seldom watch now since Renee and Hannah are gone. May I suggest that you keep looking for a female anchor because so far NO GOOD.

  18. I love Maggie. She is down to earth and so very interested in everything that is on the show. She is so sweet Hannah was very nice too and I do miss her.

  19. I Can’t believe MOONVES is really considering bringing back Bryant Gumbel in 2009
    The salary alone will be enough to say NO

  20. I Can’t believe MOONVES is really considering bringing back Bryant Gumbel in 2009
    The salary alone will be enough to say NO

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