Chicago is the next stop for ViacomCBS’ streaming-news plans.
The media company is today launching a Chicago-focused edition of CBSN, its streaming-video news operation, marking the ninth local version of the service. ViacomCBS owns Chicago’s WBBM and the company has been developing a series of locally based streaming-news outlets in markets where it owns stations.
Local news is critical as the nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, says Adam Wiener, executive vice president and general manager of CBS Local Digital, in an interview “We need to provide local audiences with 24/7 access,” he says. “We do it on our websites already and with the CBSN local streams, and we are now doing that with the video product.”
CBS launched CBSN in 2014, with a goal of injecting CBS News into venues where younger news aficionados go to get their information. Since that time, the company has also established local versions of the service that turn newsrooms at stations in New York, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and elsewhere into operations with wider purview.
Christy Tanner, executive vice president and general manager of CBS News Digital, says her unit has worked to ensure that both local and national audiences can gain access to “dozens and dozens of governors and mayors and national and international health officials and press conferences.”
The Chicago service launches after CBSN personnel have had to grapple with severe logistical challenges in recent weeks. With CBS News’ flagship operation shut down by concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, local stations took on the task of delivering reports for the CBSN national feed.
“We would have Zoom calls several times a day to coordinate what people were seeing on the national stream,” says Tanner. “Sometimes, you were seeing ‘CBS This Morning’ at the same time you would normally see it on CBS. Other times, you’d be seeing a local anchor from Boston or San Francisco or Los Angeles do, essentially, a national version of the news.”
In the end, she says, “we never went dark.”
Executives hope CBSN services will gain more exposure in this extreme news cycle. Tanner note Amazon Prime has begun to feature CBSN outside of a paywall. And the CBSN local feeds are not limited to the geographic region in which they are based.
More local streams are on the way. Wiener says there are plans to set up local CBSN streams for stations serving Dallas/Fort Worth, Sacramento, Miami and Baltimore.