CBS to Phase Out CBSN Name for News Streaming Service

CBSN anchors, Anne-Marie Green and Vladimir Duthiers.  Photo: Michele Crowe/CBS©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Michele Crowe /CBS

CBSN represented the first effort by one of the traditional broadcast networks to get into the news streaming game, and its name was meant to evoke digital concepts. But that was so 2014.

CBS News intends to phase out the CBSN moniker later this year and give its streaming effort the same identity its other products have: CBS News. A spokesperson for CBS News confirmed the new direction, which was previously reported by Digiday. Employees who staff the streaming operation are expected to move to the studio previously utilized by “CBS This Morning,” which has moved to a Times Square broadcast operation, and, like CBSN, undergone a name change.

A name-change may seem cosmetic, but tying broadcast and digital efforts under a single brand has deeper ramifications for CBS News, which is in the midst of going through some changes orchestrated by new bosses, Neeraj Khemlani and Wendy McMahon, as part of an operational reworking that ties the news division to CBS owned-and-operated stations.

“As a unified organization, we’ll offer a choreography of coverage across all of our platforms, that includes unparalleled, expansive on-the-ground reporting from New York to L.A., Chicago to Dallas, London to Beijing and everywhere in between,” Khemlani said in a statement.

CBSN launched under previous executives, but it is widely seen as the first significant maneuver by one of the nation’s big TV-news outlets to woo mobile audiences. Since its launch more than half a decade ago, CBSN has become a place where news aficionados can go at moments of national significance; catch “CBS Evening News” at times after it has run on the CBS broadcast network; and see both a bespoke morning program as well as segments from CBS’ traditional shows. The CBSN brand has extended to local-news efforts by CBS stations in New York, Chicago and elsewhere.

The identity shift will help seal the broader notion of a fluid unit as CBS works to emphasize both national and local newsgathering, McMahon said in a statement. “We’re not just seeing streaming growth nationally. CBS local news streaming is growing year-over-year as well. By unifying these organizations, we’re building on this momentum.” CBSN had more than one billion streams in 2020, according to the company.

The change comes as more TV-news operations are moving full-bore into the world of streaming video. Executives at CNN, NBC News, MSNBC, ABC News and Fox News are putting more attention on streaming-news products, and are adding new programs while wooing anchors and producers to staff them. NBC News recently launched anchor Tom Llamas on a new streaming program aimed at luring evening-news viewers. CNN is expected to launch a new streaming outlet early next year, and has already lured Kasie Hunt, widely considered an up-and-comer at NBC News, to serve as an anchor. Fox News Media continues to broaden its Fox Nation streaming service in a bid to give viewers series centered on true-crime and real-estate as well as the conservative politics that are a hallmark of its linear operation. MSNBC is trying to weave some of its most opinionated analysts across both its linear weekend schedule and its new “The Choice” outlet on its parent company’s Peacock streaming hub.

But CBS started working to woo digital crowds significantly earlier. “News is not going to hold. Over time, more things are going to debut on CBSN and then flow to other broadcasts,” former CBS News President David Rhodes told Variety in 2016.  “You’d have to really have your head in the sand not to say this is where the business is going.”