Scott Pelley: Cable News Doesn't Matter


Scott Pelley just celebrated his two year anniversary in the anchor chair at the CBS Evening News.  

In those 2 years, the ratings have made a slow steady climb from the abyss and many would argue that day in and day out, CBS is doing the best evening newscast.

There is no question that Pelley himself believes that. He also believes that CBS News is heads and tails better than the cable news outlets.

Speaking to Deadline, Pelley gives his impressions on cable news and it's not hard to tell he's not impressed with any of it. 

DEADLINE: Let’s talk about what else is going when we talk about news — specifically TV news on cable. Fox News Channel is still solidly No. 1. However, Jeff Zucker has said that CNN is now more broadly defining what news is and MSNBC’s Phil Griffin says his network is not the place for breaking news. What do you see going on with cable news?
PELLEY: I think the various cable channels are trying to discover who they are by searching for niches in the marketplace where they can create a business model that works for them. CBS News is not trying to figure out who it is. We’ve known who we are for many, many decades. And so that’s why you see CBS News being constant and not announcing that we’re changing the definition of news or that we’re veering left or veering right. These are channels that are new, relatively new, and are still trying to figure out what they want to do and who they want to be.

DEADLINE: So for you, other outlets especially the cable news networks do center on just one segment of the political spectrum in their reporting?

PELLEY: Certainly. It’s no surprise. Fox is associated with the right and MSNBC is associated with the left and they’ve done that because it is a business model. It’s a strategy. They’ve decided to bite off one small part of the viewership and be happy with that 200,000 viewers, 300,000 viewers that they have. But when you are talking to 7 million viewers across the country, man you have got to represent everybody’s views and have got to give them the impression that you are being as honest as you know how to be.

DEADLINE: While the news flow on cable may be in the hundreds of thousands, a lot of people are watching Bill O’Reilly, a couple of million a night. Same thing with Hannity.
PELLEY: We measure our audience in millions. They’re not big numbers. People talk about cable a lot and cable has a very high profile. Not a lot of people watch cable news, they just don’t. If you look at the Nielsen numbers, the cable channels have a few hundred thousand viewers at any given moment. The CBS Evening News again has 7 million viewers, ABC has 8 million viewers. Brian [NBC's Williams] has almost 9 million. Altogether we have about 25 million viewers on any given night. That’s a very different order of magnitude.

DEADLINE: NBC has MSNBC. Obviously, Fox has Fox News. Do you think it’s time for CBS to get its own cable news network?

PELLEY: You know, I wonder whether we might have moved beyond the time of the cable news network. Isn’t it all going to the Internet now? Is there really a reason for a news organization such as ours to establish a cable channel when we could establish a much bigger footprint if you will, on the Internet? So, these are decisions that are not at all up to me. We’ve got a lot of really smart people who think about these things and work on these things, but if you ask me, I wonder whether that’s a necessary step any more.

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