Back in December, I noted ABC’s announcement that it was launching Diane Sawyer as its new evening-news anchor in one of the quietest news weeks of the year. (Ordinarily quiet, that is, in those years when no one tries to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day.) I suggested at the time that the network wanted the debut to be as low-profile as possible, and thus to avoid the inflated expectations that Katie Couric brought with her.
According to a post at New York magazine, that was indeed the plan, and it seems to have worked pretty well. Sawyer recently notched the newscast’s best ratings in two years.
The flip side of that quiet success, the article notes, is that unlike CBS with its Couric gamble, ABC is making little attempt to bring in new (read: younger) news viewers. It’s trying to manage decline and keep what it’s got. But that may be the only strategy left in the evening-news game, and ABC is doing all right at it.
In a way, this is a corollary to NBC’s reversal on its Jay Leno experiment. With Jay, NBC was not trying to bring in new viewers: just the opposite, it was trying to shed viewers while shedding an even greater ratio of costs. But like CBS with Couric, it was trying to break a pattern of decline, in this case by trying to find a new business model for primetime.
Having failed at that, it’s going to plan B: try to get the biggest share of a shrinking pie, just as ABC is by courting existing (and dying-off) news viewers rather than trying to grow the pie.
On that cheerful note: What do those of you who both use computers and watch network evening news think of Sawyer so far?