Morning Show Wars:
CBS Takes Risk With New ‘Early Show’ Format

CBS readies the new Early Show format with a few new personalities.
(From left: Erica Hill, Gayle King, Charlie Rose)

Last Tuesday, CBS News announced a shake-up of its third place morning show, The Early Show. The changes include moving to a format similar to MSNBC's Morning Joe and away from the likes of NBC's Today and ABC's Good Morning America. The announcement has brought an interesting twist to the morning show wars as CBS tries to redefine morning news.

As the frontrunners in morning TV, Today and GMA typically do a half hour of hard news and then focus on soft, "news-you-can-use" segments, such as "Where in the World is Matt Lauer" and "Today Throws a Wedding." While Today has dominated morning TV for 13 years, Good Morning America is beginning to cut into its lead, according to a recent Nielsen ratings report which shows GMA only 500,000 viewers behind Today. Both programs have weather anchors, flashy, well-known sets (Times Square and Rockefeller Center) and often turn from reporting on hard news, like the European debt crisis to tabloid stories like Kim Kardashian's divorce.

CBS, on the other hand, has admittedly stopped trying to emulate its competitors. Instead, the network has increased the time allotted for hard news, eliminated a street-side set and ditched a national weather forecast in favor of local weather reports. Taking it a step further, the network’s new plans include adding PBS's Charlie Rose and Oprah Winfrey's best friend, Gayle King to its host of anchors. The new format, set to premiere on January 9, will emphasize hard news over the feature stories that have become common on NBC and ABC.

While a softer news approach has served GMA and Today well, anchors Robin Roberts and Ann Curry admitted to being a bit uneasy about the feature style of their shows in a recent interview with Howard Kurtz of Newsweek and The Daily Beast. During the interview, GMA’s Roberts said, “I'll be honest, it's been an adjustment for me, the lighter fare… I want to be No. 1. I don't want to sell my soul to the devil to be No. 1." Curry of Today had similar thoughts, “I'm at my core a hard-news reporter. I want more spinach and less sugar in this big meal we give viewers. Sometimes I feel personally our balance isn't quite right. I fight for stories that matter."

CBS is for sure taking a risk by going against what clearly works for others in the morning, but given the network’s position as a distant third, some argue they have nothing to lose. I, for one, will be watching to see what happens.

But what do you think? Is CBS onto something with its new format? Can hard news win in the morning? CJP

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4 comments “Morning Show Wars:
CBS Takes Risk With New ‘Early Show’ Format”

Love this post! It will definitely be interesting to see if it works.

I believe there’s an audience out there looking for hard news in the morning, and people will appreciate a more localized weather report. It is something I hope works out well!

Will be an even bigger ratings disaster. People watch 70 year old Charlie Rose to fall asleep at night…not to wake up in the morning. Who’s the genius at CBS who thought trying to buy Morning Joe, which is one of the few shows with an even smaller audience than The Early Show, was the solution? AND they couldn’t even get Morning Joe…so this is their plan B thrown together as the last minute back up. I can hardly wait for the new newly revamped CBS morning show again next year.

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