It was easy to wonder whether his monologue was aimed at Katie, broadcast news specifically, or the entire news media. Ms. Couric, introduced to the audience by legendary newsman Walter Cronkite, fulfilled CBS chairman Leslie Moonves' wish for a whole new look to evening news. The show left us wondering whether "Voice of God" had been replaced with the "Voice of Goddess," given how much Ms. Couric's discussion of her new role and the new show elements dominated the entire broadcast. While the broadcast was compelling enough, largely due to its sheer unpredictability, focusing on the actual news amid all the bells and whistles was a tough task.
The half-hour broadcast started off traditionally enough, with a hard-hitting story fronted by correspondent Lara Logan about the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, though her question about whether she was allowed to smile offered a light moment. There was also a new pre-taped "PBS News Hour"-style sit-down with New York Times reporter Tom Friedman, which reminded everyone that Katie has legs and likes high heels.
That was followed by an item on President Bush's speech about the war on terrorism (Mr. Bush will be interviewed tonight) and then a series of shorts about Sept. 11-related illnesses and the management shake-up at Ford.
But as the broadcast wound down, it began to borrow from the "Entertainment Tonight" portfolio with an "exclusive" about Vanity Fair's exclusive photos of Tom Cruise's baby daughter, Suri. The photos were part of a new element called "CBS Snapshot," and were introduced, bizarrely, with some CBS archive photos of a real royal, Prince Charles, as a baby.
No. 1 in early metered markets
So how did she do? CBS was ready this morning with a ratings release. The show, as expected, was No. 1 in early metered markets, a number rarely released by networks. The broadcast won a 9.1/7 rating in the main metered markets. Final national ratings, based on the national people-meter sample, are due this afternoon. Over the past four weeks, the "CBS Evening News" averaged a 4.4/9.
The hope that a new broadcast model will attract new marketers to the evening news still appears to be just a hope. For Ms. Couric's first night, it was a parade of the same old advertisers that always dominate the evening news. In the first break, advertisers included Vytorin, New York Life, Campbell Soup, Dr. Scholl's and Crest Whitestrips. Other marketers supporting the show included Advil, Smart Balance and the latest Leonardo DiCaprio/Martin Scorsese movie, "Departed."