For CBS News political analyst John Dickerson, the future of TV news starts Tuesday.
Dickerson has been named host of “CBS News Prime Time,” a daily live program on the Paramount Global unit’s CBS News Streaming platform, a free ad-supported service that supplies news 24 hours a day.
Dickerson is the first top-tier star at CBS News to anchor a live program since the service was relaunched in January. Until now, the biggest names on the network such as “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell and “CBS Mornings” co-host Gayle King have done weekly taped shows for the platform.
Since joining CBS News as an analyst in 2009, Dickerson has gone on to be moderator of the network’s Sunday roundtable program “Face the Nation,” filled a co-host role on “CBS This Morning” after Charlie Rose was fired in 2017 and served as a contributor to “60 Minutes.”
Starting Tuesday, Dickerson’s program, called “CBS News Prime Time,” will stream live Monday through Thursday at 7 p.m. Eastern and 4 p.m. Pacific. It will be available on demand afterward.
Dickerson remains as a CBS News correspondent and will continue to have a presence during special events and breaking news coverage. He was the sole moderator of two presidential primary debates during the 2016 campaign.
“CBS News Prime Time” will be less of a digest of the day’s events and go deeper into top stories with longer conversations and historical perspective, a specialty for Dickerson, who has written two books about the presidency.
“He’s fantastic with bringing context, and explaining the why behind the news,” said Neeraj Khemlani, president and co-head of CBS News and Stations. “When you think of prime time in general there is so much opinion out there and we’re fortunate to have a steward like John Dickerson anchoring a nightly show on our streaming channel to make sense of the day.”
Dickerson joins a growing number of familiar TV news personalities who are logging more hours on their organizations’ streaming platforms.
The daily version of “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd recently moved from cable channel MSNBC to the streaming service NBC News Now. Rising star Tom Llamas, who is considered a possible successor to Lester Holt as anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” has helmed a nightly newscast on NBC News Now since last fall.
Starting next week, NBC News Now is also being simulcast on the NBC broadcast network, with a live hour for the service presented in daytime. The hour is replacing the long-running soap “The Days of Our Lives,” which is moving to NBC’s streaming service Peacock.
ABC News is also expected to put its big name talent on programs for its ABC News Live streaming channel.
The shift of news talent to streaming is driven by the need to reach the younger viewers who are no longer watching traditional TV. The average age CBS News Streaming viewer is more than 20 years younger than the audience for the news division’s programs on TV — a statistic that has been consistent since the service launched as CBSN in 2014.
Unlike cable news channels, which require a pay TV subscription, the broadcast networks streaming news channels are free, available as apps and widely available on ad-supported platforms such as Pluto TV and Tubi.
For Dickerson, making a major commitment to the company’s digital platform was not a jarring prospect. A former print journalist who covered the White House for Time magazine, he was an early adopter in the podcast business, joining Slate’s popular “Political Gabfest” back in 2005; he remains a co-host. He also hosts a Slate podcast about the presidency called “Whistlestop.”
Dickerson moves to streaming with an understanding that he has license to cover stories that might not get significant time on a typical TV newscast.
“They’ve got flexibility,” Dickerson said in a recent interview. “You just have a little more space and room to run with it a little bit. So there is something inviting about having some new challenges and new opportunities through the medium that definitely felt consistent with when I went to Slate, when I started the ‘Gabfest.’ I have been pretty influenced by the idea that the form can change and people can get drawn into that relationship with content in new ways.”
Streaming news programs do not typically get the kind of staffing or budgets given to those on traditional TV such as “CBS Evening News.”
But Dickerson noted how the increase in streaming during the pandemic likely helped viewers get accustomed to a leaner production approach they will likely see on “CBS News Prime Time.”
“I think that’s accelerated a move to a journalism where it’s important to have the person on the television because they’re an expert talking about what’s happening,” Dickerson said. “And the fact that the shot may not look like the most polished shot from a studio that you’ve ever seen — a lot of the barriers for that have dropped in the pandemic age.”