Steve Capus: ‘NBC Nightly News’ Performing ‘a vital service to the country’

By Alissa Krinsky 

For years, critics have declared the network evening newscasts dead.

“I’ve been listening to those pronouncements from people who are ignorant of what’s really happening in our field,” NBC News President Steve Capus told TVNewser during a trip to Chicago Friday, “and I think that Nightly News is a broadcast that will always and should always have a home on the network.

“It performs a vital service to the country…[The ratings] demonstrate that the audience still has very high expectations of us.”

Nightly continues to lead the network pack. With political upheaval in Egypt drawing audience interest, its broadcasts during the week of January 31 averaged 11.29M Total Viewers – the program’s best ratings in more than six years.

“You’ve got to try and stay relevant for your audience,” says Capus, a former Nightly executive producer. “And in order to do that, you have to have a healthy respect for what they expect of you.  And you have to continue to invest in quality, unique journalism.  And that’s as simple as the playbook gets for us.”

Right now, that playbook also is devoted to strategy for the Egypt coverage.  Capus recently was in London to help “quarterback” the planning. “At one point,” he says, “we were literally trying to figure out which hotel room in which part of Cairo was going to be the safest for our people.”

One decision, he says, has been clear: that when it comes to coverage of the story, money “has not come into play.  The honest-to-goodness truth is, I’ve not sat down and tallied up how much we’ve spent on the budget for this.”

Budgets. Content. Corporate ownership.  They’re all topics of industry interest after the

recent NBCU takeover by Comcast.  Capus says things at NBC News have not changed since the acquisition.

“What we do on a daily basis is guided by the news…There’s no one dictating what we do on a daily basis, or anything like that.  What you see is, I think, very strong support from the new owners for a news division that has a unique success story in American journalism.”

NBC News holds the ratings crown in three key categories: Nightly News, Today, and Meet the Press all remain #1 programs.

“The other networks have come after us in a big way, and tried to stake out their territory,” Capus says of the Sunday morning news race, “but look at what David [Gregory]’s done [ratings-wise], through persistence and hard work.”

“We don’t take any of the success we have for granted,” Capus adds. “Our people sit on the edge of their seats every day.”

More than five years into his tenure as NBC News President, Capus says he’s proud to be at the helm of the network. “I can’t tell you how talented this division is, at every level. On-camera, off-camera, behind the scenes.  And so for somebody who grew up in the organization – I’ve been here for seventeen years now –  it’s humbling to lead such a strong organization.”

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