CBS News aficionados may soon have a more difficult task ahead of them: differentiating between the news unit’s most venerable TV programs and the CBS News content they stream via CBSN, its video-streaming hub.
This summer, the CBS broadcast network is expected to air a limited-run primetime series put together by producers and correspondents at CBSN, which has released a series of “CBSN Originals” documentaries for streaming users. And CBSN has quietly begun airing distinctive programs in addition to the typical newscasts it features throughout the day. Elaine Quijano (pictured, above) anchors“Red & Blue,” a 9 p.m. program on politics, while Major Garrett can be spotted weekly hosting “The Takeout,” a streaming transmission of his podcast focused on White House news.
“We are trying to respond to the data that we get,” says David Rhodes, president of CBS News, in an interview. “You’d think the younger audience wants shorter content, but it turns out the younger audience is interested in the longer form.”
The programming maneuvers suggest CBSN is growing up. Launched in late 2014, the broadband service was once used to repurpose clips from CBS News TV programs. In recent months, however, it has come more into its own: Push notifications on smart phone screens urge users to tune in to CBSN to catch live coverage of breaking-news events from the White House or in other parts of the country. And producers have sent correspondents like Vladimir Duthiers to Paris and Brussels for “CBSN Originals” documentaries.
Research shows that a significant portion of the CBSN audience are slightly more affluent, educated and diverse than the norm, says Rhodes, but do not have a traditional pay-TV subscription.
To get the word out about the streaming newsroom, CBS wants to use the summer broadcast series as a billboard of sorts.
The program will begin running in August for an as-yet undetermined number of episodes. Each broadcast will contain a number of different segments, says Rhodes, and will focus on both domestic and international stories. CBSN and CBS News staffers will both appear. “It’s really all the same pool of people,” he says, noting that CBSN staff contribute to programs like “CBS This Morning” and “CBS Evening News” The day, time and name of the new show will be announced later, he says.
More important, perhaps, each broadcast will point viewers to CBSN. “If we show a different audience, a primetime broadcast audience, what is going on over here, we hope they are going to be interested and seek out and find and watch the streaming,” he says. And because the CBSN content does not look all that dissimilar on a connected-TV from the new broadcast series, the hope is viewers will adopt it as a viewing staple.
“If the audience is seeking this out on OTT, they will find that they are getting a product that’s similar to what they saw on television,” says Rhodes, “and that’s what we want.”