NBC News Now, the 24/7 streaming service from NBC News, was going to expand its live coverage to the East Coast’s morning hours in April. Then the coronavirus hit.
Six months later, the four-hour weekday “Morning News Now” is now ready to roll, starting Oct. 12 — and not a minute too soon, as the already-clamorous news cycle hits a new crescendo. The show will be anchored by Savannah Sellers (above left), NBC News correspondent and co-host of NBC’s “Stay Tuned” series on Snapchat, and NBC News correspondent Joe Fryer (above right). It’s set to air 7-11 a.m. ET Monday-Friday.
But NBC has a morning show: the long-running “Today” program, which also has a companion online service that streams around-the-clock. Janelle Rodriguez, senior VP of editorial for NBC News who oversees NBC News Now, argued that “Morning News Now” won’t cannibalize “Today” viewership (or vice versa).
“We don’t see it as in competition with ‘Today’ or MSNBC,” she said. “There are millions of viewers who are getting their news exclusively on streaming… We want to be where our audience is.”
Unlike the “Today” show, there won’t be celebrity guests or, say, cooking segments on “Morning News Now.” Rodriguez described the format of the show as focused on “hard news” with the aim of covering serious topics in a way that viewers “walk away feeling informed… but not wanting to curl up on the couch all day and eat chocolate ice cream.”
Sellers and Fryer will go live from a brand-new set at 30 Rock in New York City on Oct. 12, the same day Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett are scheduled to begin. Their plates also will be full covering President Trump’s health status after contracting the ongoing coronavirus, the ongoing impact of COVID-19, the November U.S. elections — and the uncertainty over whether Trump will accept getting voted out — and other national and international news, politics, business and consumer stories.
For NBC News Now, the addition of the a.m. block will help it compete in the increasingly crowded category, which includes CBS News’ CBSN (which launched a morning program in 2018) and ABC News’ ABC News Live.
“The demand for credible news is out there. The audience is demanding that,” said Rodriguez, who frequently uses the word “trustworthy” to describe the brand identity NBC News Now is trying to impart.
NBC News staffed up for “Morning News Now” back in the spring but had to train all the new hires remotely because of the pandemic, Rodriguez said, adding that “it was a mad scramble to stay up and running with the programming we had.” Virtually the entire NBC News Now team continues to work from home, she said.
Sellers and Fryer held their first on-set run-through for “Morning News Now” last Thursday (Oct. 1). The duo will arise around 3 a.m. ET each weekday to prep. Meanwhile, it’s not their only duties: Sellers will continue as NBC News correspondent and co-host “Stay Tuned” on Snapchat and Fryer will serve as an NBC News correspondent for various pieces for the network.
“We always knew our guiding light would be a straight news show,” said Fryer, who last month relocated from L.A. to New York. “Not doom and gloom, but also not celebrity or lifestyle.”
Sellers doesn’t expect there to be any struggle to fill the four-hour block. “We’re obviously launching in a very intense news environment,” she said. “Right now, probably for most news programs, rundowns are almost creating themselves. Hopefully not too long after Election Day, you’re probably going to see some news-adjacent conversations around mental health, being out of work, topics like that.”
In terms of the daily mix, “Morning News Now” will feature a regular roster of contributors providing updates and dispatches, including a CNBC correspondent providing business headlines and an NBC News London bureau for international news.
Since launching in May 2019, NBC News Now has grown to an average of more than 10 million unique viewers per month, serving more than 10 million hours watched monthly, according to media-measurement firm Comscore.
The expansion into the a.m. hours will bring more live original coverage to NBC News Now, whose afternoon slot is anchored by Allison Morris. NBC News Now’s programming slate also includes Chuck Todd’s weekly “Meet the Press Reports” on Thursdays and has featured various special reports, with recent programming including “Can You Hear Us Now?”, “Pride & Protest,” “Planet 2020” and “Decisión 2020.”
NBC News Now has more than 40 dedicated employees. Kelly Daniel is the executive producer for “Morning News Now” and Joey Cole executive produces the afternoon/evening programming on NBC News Now.
“Morning News Now,” as with the rest of NBC News Now, will be available on the web, NBCU’s Peacock, YouTube TV, FuboTV, Xumo, Pluto, and NBC News’ OTT apps on Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV.