Mariah may have switched to its rival morning show at the last minute, but the execs at the Early Show intend to the teach Today a lesson in more than manners. Claire Atkinson tells you how to approach this newcomer to the 7 to 9 am scene.
Mariah may have switched to its rival morning show at the last
minute, but the execs at the Early Show intend to the teach Today a
lesson in more than manners. Claire Atkinson tells you how to approach
this newcomer to the 7 to 9 am scene.
When CBS relaunched its daily morning show last month it made the
headlines, not because of what was on it but because of what wasn’t.
Celebrity publicity house PMK had scheduled a live performance by singer
Mariah Carey for the debut on November 1, but whisked her away to rival
Today show at the last minute.
PMK claimed that CBS had not secured permission from the city for an
outdoor concert. But the decision may have been partly influenced by the
agency’s desire to rebuild bridges with the Today show, after its
executive producer publicly said he would no longer speak to chief Pat
CBS’s new offering is called the Early Show, and senior executive
producer Steve Friedman is charged with catapulting the network back
into the morning race after an average performance by its predecessor,
CBS This Morning.
Friedman is philosophical about the loss of Mariah: ’You can’t hold
grudges,’ he says. Not, at least, when you’re the third-place morning
show, trailing NBC’s Today and ABC’s Good Morning America.
To be fair, the Early Show did a good job of getting an array of heavy
hitters on in its first week. The show’s two anchors, former Today host
Bryant Gumbel, and Jane Clayson, spent the first week interviewing
President Clinton and presidential front runners, Al Gore, George Bush,
Bill Bradley and John McCain.
While PMK representatives often quote comparative ratings points when
negotiating slots for guests, Friedman’s view is that ratings should not
be the only consideration for publicists. ’Most people show up for the
ones who asked them first,’ he says. And, the show hasn’t been short of
celebrities, with Chris Rock, Darryl Strawberry and Will Smith turning
up in the first few weeks.
So why has CBS decided to reevaluate its approach to this 7 am to 9 am
slot? ’People are getting up earlier and they don’t want to leave the
house dumb,’ says Friedman, adding that breakfast ratings have grown
considerably over the last few years.
Though it’s too early to see how the Early Show compares to its
predecessor, it has, during its first two weeks, increased average
ratings from 2.4 to 2.6, which translates roughly to 2.6 million
households. According to Nielsen Media Research, Today pulled in a five
for the period November 1 to 12, while Good Morning America came in
second with a 3.6 rating.
Friedman is undaunted by the size of the gap. His short-term goal is to
move the show to number two, though he accepts that this will take time.
’Grant Tinker (former NBC program chief) said once, ’First you’ll be
best, then you’ll be first,’’ he says.
Kevin Goldman, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, now senior vice
president of communications at Priceline WebHouse Club, says: ’The
problem they have is that people are very loyal to Today. They get out
of bed with Katie and Matt.’
But Goldman wonders what will happen to Good Morning America when
interim anchors Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer move on, and says that
Friedman is a force to be reckoned with: ’Steve Friedman is very
motivated. He has shown he can start something from nothing. Everyone
ought to let the show develop.’
Today show executive producer Jeff Zucker may be wondering how much
erosion the number-one show is going to experience. ’We are being pushed
by the competition,’ he admitted at a recent conference. ’With
everything success is hard to sustain. It is good to be pushed.’
Friedman has a varied TV background. He was executive producer of the
Today show for almost eight years until 1987 and is credited with taking
the show to its number-one position through innovations such as the
glass-front studio. He was also a creator of NBC’s Dateline, but left
the network following a falling out with NBC Nightly News president Andy
Lack. Friedman then joined Savoy Pictures’ TV unit before landing in
1997 at CBS as the general manager of its New York affiliate.
He lives a four-minute walk from the Early Show office on the seventh
floor of the General Motors building, near Central Park. He rises at
5:30 am to organize the 20-odd segment producers for the 7 am kickoff.
When the show closes two hours later the team plans the next day’s
Friedman is polite and amiable and a great interview, since he tends to
talk in sound bites. But he advises PR executives to build relationships
with his production staff rather than contacting him. The two-hour show
has a huge appetite for ideas but he says to first find out whether
there’s any interest before sending a press kit.
The show has a selection of special guest contributors, including Martha
Stewart. It also uses book authors, magazine editors - InStyle executive
editor Charla Lawhon gave advice about Thanksgiving entertaining - and
food gurus such as New York chef Bobby Flay.
If you are trying to place your client on several shows, it’s unlikely
you’ll be picked up unless the guest is particularly newsworthy. Both
Friedman and Zucker claim they almost never have the same guests; once
viewers have seen an item they won’t watch it again on another
Friedman’s advice is: ’Be honest.’ He knows who is appearing on his
rivals’ shows. While he pleads with publicists to be willing to share
segments with other guests, he says that for people whom the show is
really interested in, he has the luxury of offering more time. Most
segments last around five minutes.
Though the Early Show has a long way to go before it’s established with
viewers, it’s worth remembering that if the show is good enough for the
president and presidential hopefuls, it’s probably good enough for your
CBS Early Show
524 West 57th St.
New York, NY 10019
Tel: (212) 975 2824
Fax: (212) 975 2115
Senior executive producer: Steve Friedman
Executive producer: Al Berman
Senior producer: Alexandra Wallace
Senior producer (hard news): Laura Dubowski
Senior producer (contributors): Janice De Rosa
Producer (publishing): Carol Story
Producer (entertainment): Andrew Cohen
Producer (health): Patricia Olsen
Financial correspondents: Brian Finnerty and Ray Martin
Movie correspondent: Gail O’Neill
Pop-culture correspondent: Laurie Hibberd
Parenting correspondents: Martha Quinn and Lisa Birnbach
Broadcast associate: Vincent Zappier.