The typical evening-news program give viewers all the news they need to know in less than 30 minutes. John Dickerson’s take on the format aims to unpack the headlines of the day and offer something most news programs don’t — perspective.
Dickerson will lead CBS News’ step into an emerging frontier, an evening-news program that doesn’t air on a TV network, but streams instead, presumably for a younger, more tech-savvy audience. “CBS News Prime Time With John Dickerson,” a new hour-long program, debuts tonight at 7 p.m. eastern on CBS News’ streaming outlets, and will appear live Monday through Thursday. The goal is for Dickerson, a former host of “Face The Nation” and a longtime political journalist and analyst, to provide insight and historical context around the events of the day so viewers gain a deeper understanding of the news cycle.
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Dickerson intends to use the program to “to explore the world, figure out what is happening, why it’s happening and report back in proportion and the right order,” he said in a statement. CBS News declined to make the anchor or executives available for interviews. “My hope for this show is that it will evolve like the medium and the news stories that we cover every day.”
CBS News and Dickerson are entering an increasingly crowded field. Both ABC News and NBC News have launched their own streaming counterparts to their traditional evening-news efforts. Linsey Davis holds forth on “ABC News Live Prime,” the signature evening show on the Disney-backed news outlet’s streaming hub. Tom Llamas, meanwhile, anchors “Top Story,” a 7 p.m. broadcast on NBC News Now that works to give viewers not only the news of the day but spotlights on enterprise reporting and stories on broader demographics who might not always see themselves in the traditional news program.
The three evening-news shows — “CBS Evening News,” “NBC Nightly News” and “World News Tonight — continue to command a sizable viewership. Indeed, the shows’ numbers were boosted during the coronavirus pandemic, and, with streaming on the rise, their average audiences often outmatch those of some primetime entertainment programs. Among news executives, however, there’s a growing sense that younger viewers are getting their news fix elsewhere and don’t have a lifestyle that necessarily lends itself to tuning in to a half-hour program before settling in for “Jeopardy” or “Inside Edition.”
The streaming programs are meant to provide an antidote, of sorts, to some of the legacy issues that hinder their traditional TV antecedents. The broadband shows aren’t constrained by the same time limits and requirements for commercial breaks, and allow for deeper conversations about hot stories and trending topics and can showcase more of what network news divisions do each day.
Evening-news via broadband will still face competition from cable outlets. Many of the 7 p.m. cable efforts tilt toward hard opinion. Fox News offers Jesse Watters at 7 p.m., while MSNBC airs Joy Reid. CNN, with a schedule that appears to be in flux under corporate parent Warner Bros. Discovery, has long relied on Erin Burnett to helm the 7 p.m. time slot.
CBS News sees Dickerson’s program as a counter to some of the shows already up and running. ““When you think of prime time in general there is so much opinion out there and we’re fortunate to have a steward like John Dickerson anchoring a nightly show on our streaming channel to make sense of the day,” said Neeraj Khemlani, president and co-head of Paramount Global’s CBS news-and-stations unit, in a statement.
“CBS News Prime” provides Dickerson with a new roost at CBS News. He has had several.
Before joining CBS News, he enjoyed a long tenure at Time and Slate, always covering politics. After contributing to CBS programs, then serving as the news unit’s political director, he took over as anchor of “Face The Nation” in 2015. His time on the show met with approval, but CBS News executives moved Dickerson to co-hosting duties at “CBS This Morning,” where the lineup was in flux following the departure of Charlie Rose and a switch in top executives at the news division.
Dickerson has continued in varied roles, contributing to election coverage and “60 Minutes” and filling in on some of CBS News’ top programs. Dickerson’s ability to keep pushing forward might be in his blood. His mother, Nancy Dickerson, was the first female correspondent for CBS News. Her son will be the first to take CBS into a format that, at least for now, remains experimental.
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