In what’s being viewed by some media outlets as a “shake-up” of CBS’ news roster, the network will have women atop both its morning and evening newscasts.
Chief evening anchor Jeff Glor is being replaced by Norah O’Donnell, who currently helms CBS This Morning, and the morning show is being restructured around CBS’ Gayle King, along with co-hosts Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil. The changes were announced Monday by the network’s news chief, Susan Zirinsky, who added that the changes signal “the start of a new era for CBS News.”
The new morning team is set to launch on May 20, while the Evening News with Norah O’Donnell is scheduled for a summer debut in New York before moving to a permanent home in Washington, DC, this fall.
But these changes won’t be all that disruptive from an advertising perspective, say media experts interviewed by MM&M. “I don’t think a change of this nature has much of any impact on a specific category of advertising,” said Brian Wieser, global president, business intelligence at GroupM, by email.
For one, CBS is already the biggest beneficiary of the pharma category ad boon. The network drew the lion’s share of TV spend last year, to the tune of almost $1 billion in pharma ads, followed by ABC and NBC, according to Kantar data reported in April.
CBS’, and the category’s, spending surges are likely impervious to these kinds of tweaks. Moreover, reshuffling the lineup does not address the systemic issues plaguing network TV, given the loss of viewers to OTT, other alternative channels and mobile. What was once considered prime time has morphed into “personal prime time,” with consumers engaging across media and verticals.
That said, CBS’ formula for attracting pharma ad dollars is working well, which has more to do with its programming being a strong draw for older viewers. Take its Sunday night lineup, comprised of football and iconic news magazine 60 Minutes followed by freshman drama God Friended Me and Madam Secretary.
Its news ratings, however, are another story. CBS’ “Morning” and “Evening” have been stuck in third place for years, and have recently seen viewership erode in light of anchor changes made over the past 18 months. Can the ascension of King and O’Donnell reverse the ratings slide, maybe even attract a few more ad dollars from companies in the women’s health space?
“I don’t think that’s a stretch,” said Justin Chase, EVP of media and innovation for Intouch Solutions, which does some TV work on behalf of pharma. “Advertisers will probably take a wait-and-see approach.”
The fact that O’Donnell, a veteran political reporter, will spearhead an evening newscast that’s relocating to the District of Columbia at a time when the primaries are on the not-too-distant horizon and the drug-price policy discussion is heating up are bright spots from a healthcare standpoint, added Chase.
One caveat for advertisers, he noted, is that O’Donnell, who is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and joined CBS News in 2011 as chief White House correspondent, can be “very opinionated and less pragmatic.” Said Chase, that means “there could be a degree of exposure form a politics standpoint.”
The staff moves are also notable when viewed in light of the late-2017 Charlie Rose sexual misconduct scandal. The longtime morning anchor was suspended that November after a bombshell Washington Post report in which eight women accused him of sexual harassment at multiple networks, spanning decades.
Handing over the news reins to King and O’Donnell is another step in the right direction, said Chase. “I’d classify [having two women anchors] as maybe not highly progessive, but somewhat so, considering two years ago network TV was overwhelmingly male-dominated,” he said.
Fallout from the #metoo movement has not dampened pharma’s TV interest. Industry’s TV spend rose 65% over the past five years and 9% year-on-year in 2018, compared to an 8% increase the year prior, MM&M reported last month.
Some pharma brands pulled ad dollars from CBS after Rose’s late-2017 ouster, “but at this point, all the original ones have returned to the network,” said Chase.
The other two of the big three networks also suffered high-profile firings, which would have made it difficult for a brand wanting to avoid that kind of exposure by pulling out of any one network in favor of another. “You had the #metoo situation in every network,” he observed. “Matt Lauer was arguably the biggest culprit and he was on NBC. ABC lost people…everybody had exposure.”