Thursday, March 08, 2007

Panic at the Eye

CBS fires Katie Couric's top producer.

And their solution? Bring in Richard Kaplan, that famous friend-of-Bill (Clinton) who presided over CNN's slide in the late 1990s, and more recently, ran MSNBC. AP television writer David Bauder suggests (charitably) that Kaplan's changes produced a modest ratings increase at the third-place news network, but even with those gains, MSNBC has only a fraction of the audience of Fox News Channel.

The change at CBS comes only one week after NBC sacked the executive producer of their nightly newscast. His sin? Losing the February ratings sweep to ABC. According to Nielsen, NBC Nightly News currently trails ABC's World News by only 200,000 viewers; meanwhile, Katie Couric's broadcast attracts two million fewer viewers than either ABC or NBC. Saying that Kaplan has his work cut out for him would be an understatement.

What Bauder--and the other TV writers--won't say is obvious: bringing in a MSM veteran to run a failing network newscast is the broadcast equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. If history is any indication (and, assuming that ABC and NBC don't do anything stupid), Kaplan will get the axe a couple of years from now, without producing any major changes in the ratings. However, the "early" change of executive producers at CBS suggests that patience with the Couric experiment is running short. Only yesterday, we suggested that Her Perkiness had four-five years to turn things around. Based on today's development--and the ever-dwindling audience for broadcast network news--I'd say that Couric's timeline is now three to four years, and shrinking fast.

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