CBS says no regrets on Dan and Connie

TURNED ON IN L.A.

January 14, 1994|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

The ratings are down. The reviews are lousy. But CBS says it's sticking with the anchor team of Dan Rather and Connie Chung.

"We are not second-guessing the decision. We are absolutely having no discussions about doing anything differently," says CBS News President Eric Ober.

Well, maybe a few things.

"We are looking at format things to do. We have hardened up the broadcast. We have been more aggressive on breaking news coverage. I think you will probably be seeing Dan and Connie traveling more," Ober says.

"But we are absolutely not second-guessing the decision. And I think it's unfortunate that we've gotten the fire we have."

CBS' spin on the audience loss for "The CBS Evening News With Dan Rather and Connie Chung" is that pairing the two is changing the viewing habits of the entire nightly news audience. CBS says the viewers it's losing are older than 55, while the viewers it's winning are 18 to 49.

But isn't CBS the network that says old is good when it comes to viewer demographics?

Only when it suits the spin CBS is trying to sell. The truth is "The CBS Evening News" is going nowhere but down, while "NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw" gains in the ratings.How about 'long gone'?

CBS President Jeff Sagansky, the man responsible for such new shows as "The Trouble With Larry" and "South of Sunset," was asked at a press conference yesterday what happened to Faye Dunaway's "It Had to Be You."

He hesitated for a second, then said, " 'It Had to Be You' is on a long hiatus."

Come on, Jeff, you can say it, c-a-n-c-e-l-e-d, canceled.

Stories: All in the family

On a more promising note, Sagansky says CBS will have a new show next fall from Rob Reiner called "Bedtime Stories."

"And it's a very simple premise. It's about the bedtime stories that a father tells his kids every night, except in this show, those bedtime stories will come to life and will feature all the characters in the family," Sagansky says.

Letterman: Live is better

More news on the David Letter man front . . .

Quoting Nielsen ratings, CBS says that "The Late Show With David Letterman" jumped from a 4.3 to a 6.4 rating in Washington since WUSA (Channel 9), the CBS affiliate, moved it from tape delay to live Dec. 27.

In Dallas, the show went from a 5.5 to an 8.1 rating when it was moved to live. In Kansas City, the results were similar -- a 5.4 to an 8.7 rating.

And, yes, Baltimore continues to be Letterman's worst major market. CBS attributes that to the fact that Letterman appears on WNUV (Channel 54), an independent, rather than WBAL (Channel 11), the CBS affiliate.

CBS wants Letterman "100 percent, live" on its affiliates by next fall, according to David Poltrack, senior vice president for research. With the kind of ratings muscle Letterman has, CBS is likely to get its wish.

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