The former president of NBC News — now executive editor of CBS News and exec producer of “CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley” — Steve Capus has a plan for getting his evening news program first to No. 2 in the ratings and then to No. 1, writes Brian Steinberg in an analysis piece in Variety.
“In an era when interactive devices seem to have reduced the attention span of most video consumers to that of a hummingbird on methamphetamine, the new executive producer of ‘The CBS Evening News’ recently tried something counterintuitive: a story segment lasting more than five minutes,” Steinberg writes. “The average length of a video piece on the venerable CBS evening newscast is just a minute and 45 seconds in length. On August 5th, however, the program aired a report that came in at four minutes and 45 seconds – a whopping 171% longer than usual – and then offered a conversation between the correspondent who presented the piece and anchor Scott Pelley.”
The report, on young people with developmental disorders who had been given shock treatments, “caught people’s attention,” said Capus, who has been in his new job since July 7. He added: “We felt good about it. I think there are some other things in the works.”
Capus wants to dislodge “Evening News” from third place, Steinberg writes, “without abandoning CBS’s old-school reliance on in-depth reporting, despite a competitor, ABC, that has made strides by featuring a faster-paced program.”
The report notes that broadcast news is in a time of transition, with ABC making gains on segment leader NBC, and David Muir taking over the anchor’s chair at ABC’s “World News.” CBS, meanwhile, is gearing up for a likely October launch date for a new streaming-video news service.
Said Capus: “Anytime there is a transition there is an opportunity where perhaps people might sample and see what’s out there. Right now, it’s up to all of us to make sure we have the strongest offering that we can. We are not going to do crazy stunts. We are not going to put Scott on the air without a tie hanging upside down in front of the monitor. We will stay true to who we are.”
Steinberg adds: “For CBS News in recent years that has meant invoking the unit’s heritage as a place for ‘people who are serious about their world,’ says Capus – this is the place where Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite held forth, after all – and extending it from ’60 Minutes’ to ‘CBS This Morning.’”
We urge you to click on the link in the first paragraph, above, to read the rest of Steinberg’s analysis.