The following comes from "Kathy" in Lee's Summit:
Why do you love Les Moonves and the Katie Couric experiment? Moonves is a moron. Couric is a moron. Your a moron. Love, Kathy
Kathy probably has built a shrine to Dan Rather in her bedroom, but I'm sure I love being called a moron by someone who doesn't know the difference between you're and your as much as any network mogul.
I like Dan Rather and I like Katie Couric. I don't care about either's politics really. I don't like politics at all. I don't like the parties or the system, but I can't think of a better one or a way to change it so I just keep my trap shut about it.
Nothing about "the system" has been unfair to me personally, so that's a fairly easy approach for me to take. I know a lot of people get really heated and frothy over politics, but I try to save that and all my trash talk for sports.
I like the Katie Couric experiment. Why? Because news has a problem. I don't care if it's broadcast, cable or the local news (and oh yeah, newspapers!). They all have the same problem: almost everyone under the age of 40 who wants to know "who won" or what the weather is going to be like tomorrow - they just look it up on the internet.
For years and years prior to the Internet, big media controlled the "flow of information". It was timed beautifully, "Your favorite team went to triple overtime in the most exciting game of the year!! Who won? Find out - right after this commercial break." On a guess, local news still operates like that.
Overwhelmingly the people who watch broadcast evening news (or cable news for that matter) are 55 and over. Calling a spade a spade, the older I get, the bigger a problem I have with ageism. But if age is really a component in the capitalistic equation (and surely it must be) then that's just the way it is. It seems like for CBS and other broadcast news, the focus is on 25-54 and most of the viewers aren't.
So, Les "fires" Dan, hires Katie and the media proclaims (based on the raw numbers) that ratings are a disaster. Since most of the people watching the CBS Evening News were over 55 to begin with, you can figure that most of the ratings attrition also came from that group. A group that didn't matter that much to advertisers anyway. So it's not really a "disaster" - it's not good news either, necessarily. But let me break it down for you: broadcast evening news ratings have been plummeting for longer than some of you have been alive.
- Let's milk this for as long as we possibly can. If advertisers are paying us and we can make money, fine. When they aren't (as it approaches 0) we'll do something else.
- Let's see if there's anything we can do to reverse this trend
- Let's see if there's anything we can do to stabilize this trend
Within this is the bigger issue of "uh, most of our viewers are 60 years old and the advertisers don't want to pay for that, how do we get younger viewers?" If CBS lost 4 million people 60 and over and brought in 2 million viewers who are under the age of 55, it may have lost 2 million net viewers but it will have improved the overall business.
I believe this is what Les Moonves and CBS is attempting to do with Couric. Whether it winds up working or not isn't particularly relevant to me. I admire the experimenting and think it is the right thing to do, especially with the huge legacy the news division has at CBS.
It won't shock me if 5 or 10 years down the road it's replaced with a product that is half ESPN SportsCenter, half TMZ celebrity news. Why? Because that content is much cheaper to produce and it attracts the youthful demos that advertisers covet. But you can't just kill the News division at CBS without giving the "Hey, we tried everything we could think of, but it didn't work out." It seems to me that if it's necessary at some point to give that speech, Moonves will at least be able to give it sincerely.