Some of America's biggest television news operations have become reliable to their viewers because of their reach and easy access. NBC News has used MSNBC for years. CNN and Fox run for 24 hours a day, 7 seven days a week. ABC News recently launched a cable news network of their own alongside Univision and has also teamed up with Yahoo! and Conde Nast to spread their content online.
What has CBS News done lately to make themselves more accessible? Nothing much. They have a decent app, a decent website, an intensively updated YouTube page and up-to-the-minute social media pages but that's it. And guess what? NBC, ABC, CNN and Fox all have the same things as well.
Right now, the talk of the town is that CBS will buy CNN but in a perfect world even if Fox were to buy Time Warner and divest CNN tomorrow, that process could take up to a year.
So what should CBS News do to expand their reach and compete for brand recognition effectively alongside their rivals?
In my opinion, they need to utilize PBS. Yes, the Public Broadcasting System.
Whenever Charlie Rose gets a big interview, it airs first on CBS News' various broadcasts and then the full unedited version airs during Charlie Rose's nighttime television show. It's happened just today with Hamas' leader and it happened earlier this year with Syrian President Assad.
Why can't CBS' other big scoops and other great reporters get some extra time of their own to tell their stories more in-depth on a network which has almost as much reach as CBS?
How would this partnership work? CBS would produce a daily live half-hour newscast which was uninterrupted and gave reporters some more time to describe their story. It could either serve as a lead-in to PBS NewsHour or it could air right after PBS NewsHour. CBS would also produce a 2-hour block of week in review programming, a weekday edition of "60 Minutes" (or air their online behind the scenes telecast "60 Minutes Overtime") and monthly specials which utilize their archives. CBS News could even showcase the work of other PBS news productions and cross-promote during their telecasts.
CBS News would also have the ability to preempt PBS's primetime schedule occasionally to cover breaking news which is of public interest but isn't big enough to break into CBS's schedule. A perfect example would be November's mid-term elections. NBC (via MSNBC), ABC (via Fusion and Yahoo), CNN and Fox will all air coverage of their own while CBS will be stuck between a rock and a hard place. A CBS News breaking news telecast on PBS would reach more viewers than any of the three cable nets and it would increase the likelihood that Americans depend more on CBS News.
How does this benefit PBS? A lot of PBS's groundbreaking journalism is not recognized by mainstream America because PBS is not a network which your typical mainstream American watches. With this new parnership, stories done on "Frontline" could be featured and promoted during CBS's newscasts which could bring new viewership to "Frontline" and help the story go viral.
How does this affect BBC's relationship with PBS? Something's got to go if this was to work out and in this case, it would be the BBC. Their news network has already garnered their own deals with major cable and satellite operators so they wouldn't be at a loss at all. And if BBC really wanted to continue their relationship with PBS, their newscast could always be syndicated onto one of PBS's multicast nets.
What's the biggest problem with this venture? I can't think of a way CBS would make money by doing this. If anything, they would probably lose money. But their brand would get a big boost because it would be easier to reach on television at times other than 7am and 6:30pm (and 2am for some affiliates of the overnight newscast) on CBS.