EXCLUSIVE: Scott Pelley is a star 60 Minutes correspondent and landed the anchor chair at a broadcast nightly newscast without an agent. Imagine what he can do with one. The CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor has signed with WME for representation in all areas. The newscast has been improving since Pelley took over in 2011, currently up 8% season to date among total viewers compared with last year. Emmy winner Pelley has been a correspondent on CBS’ 60 Minutes since 2004, with his segments responsible for half of the major awards won by the venerable newsmagazine. In the field, Pelley was one of the first reporters on the scene after the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City and also reported extensively from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Pelley previously was CBS News’ Chief White House Correspondent, covering the Clinton administration.
Just over two years on the air, Fox News Channel’s The Five airs its 555th show tonight. It debuted July 11, 2011 as a replacement for Glenn Beck and was made a permanent part of the Fox News lineup in October 2011. The daily one-hour roundtable with rotating hosts has proven both a ratings winner and a controversy magnet for the cable news network — and we’re talking about the home of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity here. The Five has seen its ratings rise 50% rise since launch, and for the past four consecutive months it has eclipsed Hannity in viewership, making it the second most watched show on cable news after The O’Reilly Factor. With an average of 2 million viewers a night and 324,000 in the news demo, The Five also soundly wins its time slot against rivals CNN and MSNBC. Deadline spoke with some of the hosts of The Five about CBS anchor Scott Pelley’s slam of cable news, Jeff Zucker, Hollywood failings and Jimmy Kimmel’s viral video scam.
DEADLINE: Earlier this summer in an interview I did with Scott Pelley, the CBS anchor slammed cable news networks as getting “one small part of the viewership” and content to “be happy with that 200,000 viewers, 300,000 viewers that they have.” A lot of our commenters took him to town for so dramatically downplaying cable news’ audience. Ring true to you guys?
GREG GUTFELD: Yeah, first off, who is Scott Pelley? Now, does he work in media or soccer? Whatever, he’s entitled to his opinion and I totally support him. And he was a really good soccer player.
BOB BECKEL: I just thought it was a cheap shot. Why did he have to go out of his way to say that? That’s the thing that bothers me. For a guy that’s a reporter and the anchor of the CBS News to say 200,000 people, do your homework. Look at it and say, “Gee, The Five has over 2 million people!” Now, why does he have to make that gratuitous comment? The fact of the matter is, when Walter Cronkite led CBS, they had twice the audience they got now, probably more. No they’ve done a good job of getting it down to, what is it, 7 million now? And we have, on any given day, 2 million-plus. If you do our repeat it’s about 2.5 million, so we ain’t to far behind that boy and he’s got exposure of a 100% of the TVs in the country and we don’t. So let him keep talking like that, that’s fine. He’s trying hold onto that job and if he wants to hold onto the job, good for him. I don’t watch him.
‘CBS Evening News’ Anchor Scott Pelley On Making Mistakes And Why Cable News Doesn’t Matter As Much As We Think
On June 6, 2011, Scott Pelley took over as anchor of the CBS Evening News, his tenure following Katie Couric’s five-year run. The once-dominant newscast had fallen to third place behind NBC and ABC during the end of Dan Rather’s reign, and Couric’s stint saw the broadcast fall to record ratings lows. While still No. 3 among the Big Three, the CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley has seen significant growth since the Texan took over after a long run at sibling 60 Minutes. In the past year, the 6:30 PM broadcast has added 490,000 viewers, the largest annual increase for the network’s evening news in 15 years and the best among the broadcast news rivals since 2002. Overall, the CBS Evening News is up 12% in viewers since Pelley’s debut. Just before his second anniversary in the anchor chair, Deadline spoke with Pelley about the relevance of cable news and why so many mistakes are getting on the air.
DEADLINE: In an age where the news is a 24-hour business, how can a 6:30 PM once-a-day broadcast still give the reach and the immediacy that news stories require?
PELLEY: You know, never in human history has there been so much information available to so many people. But never in human history has there been so much bad information available to so many people. And I think people are looking for brand names that they can trust and CBS News is one of those. The other half of this is that folks are busy. They’re going to work, they’re going to school they’re getting the kids off to school, and they care about the world; they want to know about the world but they don’t have a lot of time to spend on that. So what were offering at the evening news is, within 30 minutes we’re going to tell you about the 12 most important things that happened in the world. And you’re going to get that from the CBS News brand, which you already trust. And I think that’s why we’ve added a million viewers in the last 2 years and why we grew so much this last year in particular.
DEADLINE: You said recently you believe that there’s a crisis in journalism, saying that the house is on fire: there are too many mistakes, things are being put up too fast, it’s too sloppy, and there is too great a reliance on social media.
PELLEY: The country is only as strong as its journalism — that’s the way democracies work. The higher the quality of the information, the better informed the electorate is and the better the government runs. And the American people can always be trusted with the information. What I was talking about in that particular speech is remaining vigilant to those goals. Too often in recent months and maybe over the last couple of years, in the haste to be first with a piece of news, a news organization has gotten it wrong and I was just suggesting that that race to be first is a bankrupt pursuit. It’s meaningless. It doesn’t mean anything to anyone except those of us within the industry. It’s a game that we play on our own control rooms to see who got something first. It has no value whatsoever to the audience and I think a little bit of humility on the part of journalism would serve it and the audience very well, that we should care less about competing with each other and care more about delivering the highest-quality product that we can to the audience. So that’s what I was driving at there. We’re a human institution and, worst of all things, we’re a human institution on deadline. So mistakes are going to get made all the time. At CBS and everywhere else. But the goal should always be to deliver the highest-quality product that we can.
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
At a CBS News TCA session this morning that introduced Scott Pelley, who replaced Katie Couric as anchor and managing editor on The CBS Evening News six weeks ago, CBS News chairman and 60 Minutes exec producer Jeff Fager left no doubt that Couric’s predecessor Dan Rather wouldn’t have a role at CBS News anytime soon. Or ever. Fager responded to a question about how tragically things had ended for Rather at the network by acknowledging, “Things ended so badly that it’s difficult to see how it could be reconciled.” Pelley, a longtime correspondent at the network who worked with Rather, added, “He was a great mentor of mine and has an enduring place in the history of CBS News.”
The affable Pelley’s month and a half in his new job has done little to move the evening news ratings meter, with his early numbers consistent with, but not much different from, those of Couric or even fill-in Bob Schieffer. Yet Pelley trumpeted that the newscast’s audience “has been growing dramatically the past several weeks we’ve been on.”
Opening the CBS upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall today was a video of David Letterman, Steve Martin and Paul Shaffer rehearsing a music tune, “It’s gonna be a big, big season…” until CBS CEO Leslie Moonves walks in and tells them that their number has been cut. But CBS went the extra mile this year with a second video with the characters from freshman drama Blue Bloods. The CBS fall schedule had been stolen, and the entire Reagan clan is summoned to track it down. The hooded thief is apprehended and roughened up before his identity is revealed: It’s Regis Philbin. “I want to be on the schedule,” he said. “I’m in the apartment all day; Joy is driving me crazy.” After an elaborate pursuit enhanced with classic movie car chases, Tom Selleck personally delivers the schedule to Moonves on the stage of Carnegie Hall.
No Two and a Half Men jokes in Moonves’ intro, only a subtle reference with the opening line: “I’ll be here for a very short time: tops 2.5 minutes.” The other more memorable line in his speech: “At CBS, we don’t rebuild, we reload.”