Waking up long before the sun rises every weekday for five years hasn’t tempered the enthusiasm of CBS This Morning’s trifecta of hosts, Charlie Rose, Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King. “This is the best job I ever had,” says O’Donnell.
Celebrating its fifth anniversary, the show has consistently risen in the ratings, growing its audience by 37 percent since 2012 and posting year-over-year audience gains for 50 consecutive months. Rose credits this success to a program that is “authentic and engaged,” as well as delivering on its mandate to cover hard news.
Instead of chasing what the others do, CBS producers found a winning combination by emphasizing what the network does best: original reporting and storytelling. There are no goofy weathermen or cooking segments. “While our colleagues are cutting with forks and knives, we are talking about cutting edges of science,” O’Donnell says.
“Chances are you won’t see Norah O’Donnell go spelunking down an ice cave,” says Brian Steinberg, senior TV editor at Variety. “The show has positioned itself as a sort of no-nonsense alternative to the other two main broadcast-TV morning options. This is a place for news and ideas.”
What’s also unusual is the three-on-one dynamic when a guest comes flying solo. But King says it doesn’t feel that way because there are no “gotcha” moments and “our guests are not facing us,” she adds. “We are asking them to join the conversation. Just look at the table.”
“It is storytelling at a table in the round,” Rose further explains. “And everyone is participating.” The open set and glass table also allow the television audience to feel like it is the “fourth anchor,” says O’Donnell.
And then there is the palpable chemistry among three distinct personalities, which couldn’t be cooked up, says King. “We genuinely like each other. We admire and respect each other and we each have a deep curiosity about things.”
Five years ago, Rose says, he couldn’t have predicted the show’s success. “It’s a place people want to come to and tell their stories,” he explains. “They know they will have an interesting time and a smart conversation when they come on the show.” Even when the camera stops rolling, Rose says, the guests and hosts keep talking. “The conversation just continues.”
By Tom Roston | Originally published in Watch! Magazine, February 2017
Photo Credit: Christopher Ross.
Watch CBS This Morning weekdays at 7-9 a.m. ET/PT on CBS and CBS All Access.