2022 was another roller coaster year in the television news business. Broadcast and cable news outlets are still trying to successfully navigate the rapid changes in how Americans consume the news—increasingly moving to streaming services, podcasting and online news outlets—to survive and ultimately thrive. After all, Nielsen ratings among viewers under 55 are declining, and an uncertain economy has hurt ad revenue and forced executives to make difficult decisions on the strategic and personnel fronts.
We caught up with presidents from a variety of U.S.-based TV news outlets—CBS News and Stations president and co-head Neeraj Khemlani, CBS News and Stations president and co-head Wendy McMahon, Fox News president and executive editor Jay Wallace, Bloomberg Television Head of U.S. TV Rachel Wehrspann, and PBS NewsHour senior executive producer of PBS NewsHour Productions and WETA senior vice president Sara Just—to understand how they’re navigating this rapidly changing news landscape, and we can expect from their respective brands in 2023.
TVNewser: What was your news division/network’s biggest challenge this year, and how did you tackle it?
Just: One of our biggest editorial challenges this year has been covering the war in Ukraine. We are a smaller newsroom than most of our competitors and as public media, our budgets are necessarily cautious. But covering a war of this importance is something we need to do on the ground and in person as much as possible. Our wonderful team, led by senior foreign affairs producer Morgan Till, with great reporting from our foreign affairs and defense correspondent Nick Schifrin and so many regular contributors to the NewsHour, including Jane Ferguson, Simon Ostrovsky and many more, coupled with unwavering support from our teams in Washington, enabled us to do work on this historic story that we are very proud of. And there will be more to come in 2023, unfortunately, as this war doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon.
Khemlani: On the Network side, we made a big pivot when we re-imagined our morning show and re-launched it as CBS Mornings. Previously, we had three different morning franchises – weekday, Saturday, and Sunday. Our goal was to put them under the same content umbrella. We wanted to leverage the award-winning, longform storytelling that has made CBS Sunday Morning No. 1 and have it featured across the week, but still have each show differentiated from the other–especially with the need for more hard news Monday through Friday. Adding Nate Burleson to the table of CBS Mornings alongside Gayle King and Tony Dokoupil was critical because of what he brings in terms of storytelling and his infectious personality. Likewise, our incredible partnership with The Weather Channel rounded out the elements of the broadcast with real-time weather forecasts and virtual technology to show viewers what weather would look like before it happened. Adding all of those things together–under the leadership of Shawna Thomas and her outstanding team–created a powerful combination that has paid off.
This season CBS Mornings has picked up four competitive share points with adults 25-54 and women 25-54, three with men 25-54, and 1 in [total] viewers. The program also picked up the News Emmy for Outstanding Live News Program which says a lot.
We’re proud to have momentum in the mornings across 7 days a week: CBS Saturday Morning recently outranked NBC for the first time, and, of course, CBS Sunday Morning continues its top ratings spot with unparalleled storytelling.
McMahon: As we continue to invest in, grow and optimize our 27 stations and 13 (soon to be 14) local streaming channels, we are increasing our production of local news hours from 29,000 in 2021 to more than 35,000 by early next year. That requires significant tech and people investments, and we’re navigating through the same staffing and supply chain challenges that other companies are facing. That said, having open positions and still being able to hire great people to support our local news expansion is a really nice “problem” to have.
One of the greatest joys I have experienced this year is hearing from peers who say they’ve taken notice of how we’ve prioritized our Three C’s – Content, Culture and Community – above all else. Outstanding journalists and other multi-skilled professionals are joining us because they recognize the career opportunities we are offering are in alignment with why they got into this business in the first place. They want to be part of an organization that is deeply committed to producing solutions-oriented journalism; and to making all of the communities we serve better places to live.
One of the many great hires we’ve made is Shaina Humphries. Previously, a lead evening news anchor at the Fox O&O in Philadelphia, Shaina has joined CBS News Detroit, our local news startup at WWJ-TV that will launch in January. We view CBS News Detroit as the newsroom of the future, powered by a streaming-first infrastructure and mindset. All of the journalists, including Shaina, are multi-skilled. And most of our reporters will be embedded fulltime in communities across the market, which will allow us to truly turn neighborhoods into our newsrooms.
Wallace: The Russian attack on our colleagues covering the war in Ukraine. We are still tackling the fallout and will be for a long time, but each day we try and honor the memories of Pierre Zakrzewski and Oleksandra Kuvshynova by being on the frontlines and eyewitnesses to history wherever news happens – especially by still being on the ground in Ukraine. Ben Hall has made incredible strides in his recovery, and we are grateful to the many people whose incredible efforts aided in his rescue from Ukraine.
Wehrspann: Our biggest priority this year, as in years past, was covering the right stories that matter to our audience in the world of business, economics and politics in a fair and smart way. We rely heavily on our excellent team of journalists, including our anchors and producers to sift through the noise and deliver compelling — and sometimes market-moving– impartial information and interviews on the air. At Bloomberg, every second counts. We want to ensure we’re always offering sophisticated conversations on the topics we cover.
What will be the biggest difference between your news division/network in 2023 compared to 2022?
Just: We are undergoing a major shift at the PBS NewsHour this year as the inimitable Judy Woodruff steps away from the anchor desk and Amna Nawaz and Geoff Bennett begin as our new co-anchors on January 2, 2023. We are a news organization that has not had a lot of change at the anchor desk since our founding over 40 years ago, so this is a big moment. We are fortunate to have such stellar journalists in Amna and Geoff, who will continue to hold the same journalistic standards for our reporting, while putting their own mark on the work we do. We are returning to a co-anchor format, as we were for many years with the late Jim Lehrer and Robin MacNeil and of course with Judy Woodruff and the late Gwen Ifill. We are also fortunate that Judy Woodruff will be launching a new reporting project called Judy Woodruff Presents: America at a Crossroads that will explore the deep divisions in this country on so many levels and what opportunities there might be for improving the way we relate to each other in our communities, our politics and more. You will see Judy Woodruff Reports: America at a Crossroads on the PBS NewsHour, as well as online and more, starting in early 2023 as well.
Khemlani: We’re going to continue to build on our political reporting strengths as we cover the run-up to the next presidential election. We have invested in our Washington Bureau both in front of and behind the camera. In addition to our strong lineup of Norah O’Donnell, Margaret Brennan, Major Garrett, Nancy Cordes, Weijia Jiang, Nikole Killian, Ed O’Keefe, and many others on our Washington teams, we also added political aces Robert Costa and Scott MacFarlane who have broken several critical stories about President Trump and the attack on the Capitol since joining CBS News.
We’ve also integrated our investigative team into our Washington Bureau with the addition of Matt Mosk. And there’s nothing like seeing them in action. Our White House, DOJ, and Foreign Affairs and Investigative teams worked together to exclusively report Brittney Griner had been released in a prisoner swap with Russia. The Griner story really speaks to the strength of what we’re doing in Washington. I believe we’ve built a team that is reminiscent of when Lesley Stahl, Ed Bradley, Roger Mudd and Dan Rather dominated the coverage out of Washington. Our team today is at the forefront of virtually every story out of Washington in 2023.
McMahon: In addition to launching CBS News Detroit, we will be making some bold moves in Los Angeles next month when we launch a daily seven-hour morning news franchise on our independent station, KCAL-TV, the home of a pioneering and very successful local, three-hour primetime newscast for more than 30 years. We are excited to be extending the KCAL News brand to mornings. And at the same time, we’ve created an opportunity for KCBS-TV to provide a bigger platform for CBS News’ national and international reporting by airing double runs of CBS Mornings, beginning with the live east coast feed at 4 a.m. and the west coast broadcast starting at 7 a.m. We’re excited to have Jamie Yuccas serve as one of the anchors of our KCAL morning newscasts and also continue as a CBS News national correspondent. Jamie’s new dual role is one of many examples of how CBS News and Stations is coming together as a local-to-global news organization that adds significant value to both our Network and Local platforms.
You will also see more collaboration going forward, including joint investigations produced by the CBS News Investigative Unit and the CBS Local News Innovation Lab that we launched earlier this year in Dallas-Fort Worth. We’re quite proud of the deep dive, data-driven investigative work being done by our newly assembled team at the Lab under the leadership of Chad Cross. This includes Crime Without Punishment, which showed police departments across the country are closing a smaller share of murder cases than at any other time in American history, and that failure is far more likely to occur when the victim is Black.
Wehrspann: Following some changes this year to the Bloomberg Media structure, we are now even more closely aligned with our colleagues across all platforms (TV, radio, print, magazines, podcasts, and events). This means you will see more cross-promotion of our data-driven content via the live TV feed, social feeds, audio-only feeds, etc. You should also expect to see better use of visual data and imagery to tell important stories throughout our programs.
How did streaming change your focus this year, and what are your plans for 2023?
Just: We stream our program (both East and West coast versions) live along with many hours of coverage and other live events every day on YouTube, our website and other social platforms. We continue to see tremendous growth in those audiences as more people cut the cable cord and develop new viewing habits. We are continuing to look at ways to bring our journalism to audiences wherever they are looking for reliable, steady news and information they can trust. This year we also launched a NewsHour TikTok channel with our producer, Deema Zein, and we look to explore all the ways that we can bring NewsHour journalism to audiences in 2023.
Khemlani: We kicked off 2022 by fully revamping our streaming network. We integrated our stream teams with our network anchors and reporters. We also brought National and Local Streaming together, offering the most robust array of local to global news – all in one app.
Last January, we launched a new slate including some of our iconic franchises such as 60 Minutes and 48 Hours on the stream, while also creating new programming featuring our anchors and reporters. Our team has been invigorated by the possibilities streaming presents. Norah O’Donnell now anchors a new version of Person to Person. Michelle Miller is the host of “Eye on America.” Gayle King anchored the first CBS Reports for the CBS News Streaming Network with a look back into the impact of the death of Trayvon Martin 10 years ago. And we just launched a live, primetime news hour with John Dickerson, who brings insights and context to every story — the kind of political experience that will be invaluable as we look ahead toward the 2024 elections. We’re also showing the strength of our entire political team now on Red & Blue, which is based in Washington, D.C. We’ve had a strong head start in streaming and we look forward to continuing to evolve and grow across our digital streaming channels.
The other initiative for next year is to grow our podcast offerings. Expect to see more content from some of our marquee brands.
McMahon: CBS News and Stations has long been ahead of the curve with its national and local streaming channels. We’ve had a great year locally and will finish 2022 strong with September, October and November ranking as our three biggest months ever.
]In addition to distributing all of our local newscasts, this year we added several local news shows exclusive to our streams. We’re doing extremely well with morning news, and there’s no better example of that than the 7 a.m. newscast we added on CBS News New York. It has become the most-viewed hour on any of our local streaming channels. Of course, that doesn’t happen without the backing of our great team at WCBS-TV. The incredible performance of our New York flagship, which this year has become the second-most watched station in the country across the entire day and in morning, early evening and late news, is the most significant accomplishment at CBS Stations in 2022.
Another great example of how we are prioritizing local news streaming is in Chicago, where WBBM assigned Brad Edwards, one of the station’s evening news anchors, to serve as its fulltime streaming anchor.
Looking ahead to 2023, we will be adding more newscasts in key time periods as well as experimenting with original community-focused programming. Pluto TV has become and will continue to be the leading distributor of our local channels. We’ve achieved year-over-year growth on Paramount+ for 10 consecutive months. That growth is due to collaboration across Paramount and a shared understanding of the need to super-serve the news and information audience, wherever they are.
Wallace: Fox News Media has been strategic in its approach to streaming since we debuted Fox Nation in 2018 – finding opportunities to complement, not cannibalize our core channels. Fox Nation had an outstanding breakout year in 2022 culminating with our annual Patriot Awards and Kevin Costner’s Yellowstone: One-Fifty, which was one of the platform’s most watched programs ever. In 2023, we will debut A Year On Planet Earth, which is a six-part series that takes a unique look at the creatures who inhabit earth from some 60 locations around the globe – it’s beautifully shot and is an ideal companion to springboard off the success of Yellowstone: One-Fifty.
Wehrspann: Streaming is a native part of our content strategy and enables us to broaden our reach. We also gained insights to help us deepen our engagement with our customers and viewers. Engagement is crucial for success and allows us to target and amplify our trusted and fact-based reporting. We plan to continue to expand our global reach with our connected TV partners and streaming platforms.