David Westin has moved from being the person who had the ultimate behind-the-scenes say over “Good Morning America” on ABC to one of the people in front of the camera for an important morning effort from Bloomberg.
Westin, the former president of ABC News, will work with Bloomberg anchor Stephanie Ruhle to deliver “Bloomberg <GO>,” a new morning program that the business-news giant hopes will make a splash beyond its time slot. Executives at Bloomberg think “Go,” which will air between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Bloomberg TV starting October 5, will cultivate a crowd beyond traders seeking tips before the U.S. stock market opens, such as financial executives in Hong Kong or business leaders seeking new ideas from video delivered via tablet or smartphone.
The two vow they won’t focus overmuch on the usual business-news chit-chat, like whether the Dow Jones Industrial Average is going up or down or stock-picking. “Our audience will be impatient with that sort of stuff. They are busy people who want to get something they can use something they aren’t going to get somewhere else,” said Westin in an interview Friday afternoon. “If we don’t give them that, they are going to go on to somewhere else.”
“Go,” named for the button that executes commands on the Bloomberg news-and-data terminal that fuels the company’s coffers, is part of a broader effort to expand the company’s influence beyond Wall Street. Since the return of Michael Bloomberg, the company’s founder, to its top post after a long stint as mayor of New York City, Bloomberg has taken steps to cultivate a broader audience of high-income consumers focused on business and wealth. The new show “is really designed to be the smartest morning show, the most intelligent morning show on television,” said Justin Smith, the chief executive of Bloomberg Media.
“At a lot of our competitors and morning shows, there is a breathless quality to them. There is an excitedness and a lot of opinion.” The new “Go,” he said, aims to play up the knowledge and experience of operatives at Bloomberg, whether they hail from the reporting trenches, monitor industries at the company’s Bloomberg Intelligence unit, or have a certain analytical expertise at the Bloomberg View commentary operation.
“Go” launches after Bloomberg has shuffled the executives who oversee its TV operations. Claudia Milne, who was brought over from BBC News to supervise Bloomberg TV, has moved to tackle special projects. Al Mayers, who also runs Bloomberg’s radio operations, has expanded his aegis to television. Despite the executive change and some recent news reports of people leaving Bloomberg TV in recent weeks, “the mission for the television network is unchanged,” said Smith.
Bloomberg executives see an important and growing viewer base eager to consume information via streaming video. The company’s cable network isn’t just for TV viewers, but for consumers who are able to access the content through digital streaming around the world. “Go” will be the third new offering from Bloomberg TV, following the launch of “With All Due Respect,” a political-news program led by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, and “What’d You Miss,” a closing-bell program hosted by former “Business Insider” staffer Joe Weisenthal and Alix Steel.
The show won’t limit itself to the breaking news of the day, Ruhle said, but will try to give viewers unique insight into where industry and markets are going. A typical program might delve into the business of sports or the business of fashion, she suggested, or tackle topics like the culture of corporate leadership or the future of connected fitness. “Go” would rather talk to the chief executive of a consumer-focused company about what sorts of things people are buying or the biggest challenges of running a company, she said, than getting a booster-ish speech about the company’s latest earnings results.
She wants to close the show every day knowing “we gave them content that made them have an edge over their competition.”
Westin’s appearance might strike some as odd. Most TV-news executives don’t wind up with on-screen careers later on in life and don’t often seek them out. Steve Capus, the former head of editorial operations at NBC News, is now the top producer behind the scenes at “The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley,” for example. Westin’s arrival at Bloomberg, which was announced in June, comes after Smith began to canvass different media-industry folk about unconventional personalities.
A lunch with former “Good Morning America” and “World News” anchor Charlie Gibson put the idea in his head, he said. “We weren’t going to fish in traditional waters. We weren’t dialing up our competitors and saying, ‘Would you come over here?’” Smith explained. Gibson cited Westin’s intelligence and aptitude for on-camera work and Smith was impressed by his non-TV pedigree: Westin once served as a Supreme Court clerk. Earlier this month, Westin interviewed Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and elicited some news: Buffett said he agreed with Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump on aspects of tax policy.
Westin sees massive differences in the audience for “Go” and the one for one of his old charges, “Good Morning America.” The ABC News audience, he suggested, wants a little bit of everything, but doesn’t necessarily need all of it. “I think the audience we are appealing to is one of the only new audiences who truly need the information we are giving them.”