Wednesday, May 18, 2005

"60 Minutes" Stops Ticking On Wednesday


It shouldn't come as a shock when a show is canceled when it has more viewers who familiar with Geritol than Gerber's. But when it's "60 Minutes Wednesday" that gets canned, it should send a shudder through anybody who's ever worked in a broadcast newsroom.
CBS head honcho Les Moonves says it's all about the ratings, not the content. If you can't get enough affluent 18-49s to watch, your program's a goner. Indeed, "60W" may have been a victim of CBS's success.
"The reality of the current television marketplace is that as CBS has become increasingly strong every night of the week over the past few years, the bar for inclusion on the Network's primetime schedule has been set higher and higher," CBS News prez Andrew Heyward penned in a memo to news division employees today.
In other words, it doesn't matter if your show was a reliable bastion of high-quality storytelling, no matter the occasional stumbles such as the botched story on President Bush's National Guard service that hastened Dan Rather's exit from the Evening News anchor chair. Still, even that was not a factor in "60W's" fate, if Moonves is to be believed.
CBS was no longer content to treat "60W" as a high-quality placeholder while the network had its clock cleaned by "American Idol" and "Lost."
That may be sound business decision, but do you mean to tell me that a place can't be found on the schedule for a program that has consistently delivered and won as many awards (two DuPonts, four Peabodys and 10 Emmys) as "60W?" Given time, the junior edition could have been retooled to focus on topics perceived as more ratings-friendly, without having to descend to the depths of a "Dateline" or "20/20." In other words deliver the steak and sizzle.
Heyward delivered one consolation prize -- that CBS has approved some "60 Minutes" primetime specials. But most of the existing staff won't be around for that. Today, according to a source there, they held a long meeting, punctuated by tears and hugs -- some of them coming from Rather.
The CBS eye becomes ever more bloodshot. As those who work in the business are constantly reminded, just being good isn't good enough.

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