‘All TV News, Other Than Local News, Is Irrelevant’

By Chris Ariens 

In a wide-ranging discussion on CNBC’s Squawk Box, three TV titans discussed the future of the media business, from programming, to devices, to the challenge (and opportunity) of streaming services. As a part of the 20th anniversary of Squawk Box, CBS chairman Les Moonves, Discovery CEO David Zaslav and IAC chairman Barry Diller also discussed the future of news on TV, with three very different points of view:

Moonves: The news business right now is a little challenged. I’ll tell you why. The average age of the average network news watcher is 60. The average watcher of the cable news networks is north of 70. We started a channel online called CBSN. Our service that you get, that is a streamed 24-hour news service. The average age of that is under 40. That’s the future. Is news a profitable business for us? Absolutely not. It’s basically break even, but we’re proud to do it. You can’t live without a news division, but the news world is changing, and people get their news in different ways.

Zaslav: News will be on the front end of what happens during this transition because.. look, I was here. We started CNBC together, and believe it or not, 60 percent of the ratings were people waiting for their stock on the ticker, so all that, you get shot to you on your device. And any breaking news is shot to you on devices, so it has to be decommoditized information, telling you something as data thrown to you. That’s a challenge.


Diller: All TV news other than local news is irrelevant. People watch local. I’ve always thought the last one standing is a local television station. I think they’re going on forever. They are the ones organized to deal with their local community and people like to do—like to know about things in their area: weather, sports, local, local, local, is always going to be relevant for television.

Moonves challenged Diller: “You think ’60 Minutes’ is not relevant?”

“No, no, sorry, not saying ’60 minutes’ or documentaries and specials and things like that,” Diller responded. “But the evening news, the concept of the evening news, just, I mean, it’s — it has an audience, but that audience is declining. It’s no longer relevant.”