Gayle King, Norah O’Donnell, John Dickerson and Bianna Golodryga have scored a notable string of scoops for “CBS This Morning” in recent weeks. Now executives at the network’s news division are considering something that would also make headlines — a new anchor lineup for the show.
As CBS News president Susan Zirinsky examines the division she took over officially just last week, executives are mulling a potential morning scramble that could send at least two of the show’s four anchors to other assignments. Meanwhile, CBS News is in contract talks with King, who has emerged as the most visible member of the “CBS This Morning” team, thanks to a high-profile sit-down this week with disgraced music star R. Kelly.
Dickerson may take a new role at “60 Minutes” covering politics, according to three people familiar with the matter. Executives are also contemplating dispatching O’Donnell to the anchor seat of “CBS Evening News,” and possibly relocating the show to Washington, D.C. A reorganized “CBS This Morning” could be centered around King if CBS News can seal a long-term deal with her.
PHOTOS: Current anchors on "CBS This Morning"
CBS This Morning current anchor lineup
CBS This Morning current anchor lineup
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 15: CBS This Morning Co-Anchors: John Dickerson, Gayle King, Norah O'Donnell, and Bianna Golodryga. (Photo by Walling McGarity/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 8: CBS This Morning Co-Hosts Norah O'Donnell, Gayle King, John Dickerson, and Bianna Golodryga interview Boston Marathon bombing survivor, Adrianne Haslet LIVE. Pictured L to R: Bianna Golodryga and John Dickerson. (Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 10: Gayle King, CO-HOST OF 'CBS THIS MORNING.' (Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 12: Bill and Melinda Gates in the CBS Toyota Greenroom with Co-Host Gayle King before their appearance on CBS THIS MORNING, Feb 12, 2019. (Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 8: CBS This Morning Co-Hosts Gayle King, Bianna Golodryga, Norah O'Donnell, and John Dickerson interview Boston Marathon bombing survivor, Adrianne Haslet LIVE. (Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 4: CBS This Morning Co-Hosts (from left) Bianna Golodryga, John Dickerson, Gayle King, and Norah O'Donnell interview Senator Cory Booker (seated at far right) LIVE about his upcoming 2020 Presidential Campaign. (Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 3: Bianna Golodryga (shown here at far right) joins, from left, John Dickerson, Gayle King, Norah O'Donnell as co-host of 'CBS This Morning.' (Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JANUARY 9: CBS THIS MORNING CO-HOSTS John Dickerson, Norah O'Donnell and Gayle King. (Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JANUARY 30: CBS News' team coverage of President Donald Trump's first State of the Union Address and the Democratic response with CBS THIS MORNING co-hosts Norah O'Donnell, Gayle King, and John Dickerson on Tuesday, Jan. 30 (9:00 PM-11:00 PM, ET) on the CBS Television Network, CBSN and all CBS News platforms. (Photo by Mary Kouw/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MARCH 1: Left to right: Alex Wagner, John Dickerson, Gayle King and visiting guest country music singer Reba McEntire. Reba announces the nominees for the 53rd annual Academy of Country Music Awards while on set of CBS This Morning. March 1, 2018. (Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS via Getty Images)
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All the moves are contingent on many other internal factors and may not come to fruition, these people warned. Zirinsky has been conducting a review of the news operation in hopes of putting staffers in positions that play to their strengths. A veteran producer, her new role as head of CBS News was announced in January, as part of the larger shakeup of CBS management during the past few months.
CBS News declined to make executives avail to comment on the possible changes.
Since launching in 2012, “CBS This Morning” has added new life to the CBS A.M. schedule. The network has aired sundry morning-news shows over the years, but the current program, anchored earlier by King, O’Donnell and Charlie Rose, is the first in years to make CBS competitive with NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America.” CBS did it with a show focused on hard news, with stories about business and foreign affairs, and fewer of the lighter elements commonly associated with morning TV. Morning programs often generate more ad dollars than their evening-news and Sunday counterparts and are usually a network news division’s most profitable offering.
The program’s higher profile has helped CBS. The network has long been known for stability in primetime, but has faced headwinds in other dayparts. The rise of “Morning” took place in tandem with an increase in viewership for Stephen Colbert’s tenure on CBS’ “Late Show,” fueling the economics of different sections of the CBS programming grid.
“CBS This Morning” has long been a third-place player among broadcast A.M. offerings, however, and its ratings have slipped in recent months. Season to date, “CBS This Morning” is averaging 3.2 million total viewers, compared to 4.1 million for “Today” and 4.2 million for “GMA.” “Today” has on average 939,000 more viewers than “CBS This Morning.” In the year-earlier period, “Today’s” lead was narrower, at 772,000.
And its audience has declined in another critical measure. For the five days ending March 1, “CBS This Morning” captured an average of 830,000 viewers in the adults 25-54 demo, the most coveted by advertisers in news programs. During a comparable week last year, the show had 907,000 viewers in that demo.
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(L-R) Television talk show host Oprah Winfrey and magazine editor Gayle King at launch party for Winfrey's O magazine. (Photo by Dave Allocca/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
(L-R) Magazine editor Gayle King and television personality Oprah Winfrey. (Photo by Dave Allocca/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King at the Cipriani's in New York City, New York (Photo by Carmen Valdes/WireImage)
NEW YORK CITY - MAY 25: (L-R) Steadman Graham, Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King attend 21st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards on May 25, 1994 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 20: Talk show host Oprah Winfrey (C), Vogue editor Anna Wintour (L) and Oprah Magazine editor Gayle King attend the Vera Wang Spring/Summer 2003 Collection at the New York Public Library for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week September 20, 2002 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Mainz/Getty Images)
(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey *Exclusive* (Photo by Mathew Imaging/FilmMagic)
Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring Collections 2003 - Vera Wang - Front Row at Bryant Park in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage)
NEW YORK CITY - NOVEMBER 12: Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King attend 46th Annual National Urban League Awards on November 12, 2002 at Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) Dr. Michael Lomax, President of UNCF, Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones and Gayle King (Photo by Louis Myrie/WireImage)
Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King attend 'Moving Image Salutes John Travolta' at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City on Sunday, November 5, 2004. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage for NBC Universal Photo Department)
Malaak Rock, Oprah Winfrey, Erica Reid and Gayle King **Exclusive** ***Exclusive*** (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) Beyonce Knowles, Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for People Magazine)
Beyonce Knowles, Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey during Antonio 'L.A.' Reid's 50th Birthday Party - Inside at Nobu - 57th Street in New York, New York, United States. (Photo by KMazur/WireImage for People Magazine)
DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - AUGUST 12: Oprah Winfrey and her best friend Gayle King listens as teachers interview candidates for her school for unprivileged girls on August 12, 2006 in Durban, South Africa. Oprah has invested over $40 million to build a first class high school for a few hundred lucky girls from all over South Africa. She has realized her dream and promise to president Nelson Mandela to build the school, and to uplift the lives if these young girls. (Photo by Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images)
Jean Chatsky, Gayle King, Bob Greene, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Marianne Williamson, Dr. Robin Smith and Nate Berkus (Photo by Larry Busacca/WireImage for XM Satellite Radio)
Gayle King, Chaz Lamar Shepherd, who plays Harpo and NaTasha Yvette Williams, who plays Sofia (played by Oprah Winfrey in the film) ***EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE*** (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK - MAY 05: Oprah Winfrey, Diane Sawyer and Gayle King attends the Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World Gala at Rose Hall - Jazz at Lincoln Center on May 5, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Time Inc.)
***EXCLUSIVE*** Entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King attend the 'Up In The Air' Premiere held at the Ryerson Theatre during 2009 Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2009 in Toronto, Canada. ***Exclusive*** (Photo by Jeff Vespa/WireImage)
NEW YORK - JUNE 6: ***EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE*** (L-R) Television personality Gayle King, actresses Elizabeth Ashley and Phylicia Rashad, dressed as her character 'Violet Weston', and talk show host Oprah Winfrey pose backstage at the Pulitzer Prize-winning play 'August: Osage County' at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway June 6, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK - MAY 09: Media personalities Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey onstage at the completion of the 'Live Your Best Life Walk' to celebrate O, The Oprah Magazine's 10th Anniversary in Times Square on May 9, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
CULVER CITY, CA - JUNE 10: Oprah Winfrey (R) and Gayle King in the audience during the 38th AFI Life Achievement Award honoring Mike Nichols held at Sony Pictures Studios on June 10, 2010 in Culver City, California. The AFI Life Achievement Award tribute to Mike Nichols will premiere on TV Land on Saturday, June 25 at 9PM ET/PST. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI)
DALLAS, TX - JUNE 08: Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey during the 35th Anniversary Celebration for Bishop Thomas Dexter 'T.D.' Jakes, Sr. at the AT&T Performing Arts Center on June 8, 2012 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images For The Potter's House)
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 17: (L-R) Gayle King, Oprah Winfrey and Maria Shriver attend Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular at the United Center on May 17, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 15: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) (L-R) Gayle King, Audra McDonald as 'Billie Hollday' and Oprah Winfrey pose backstage at 'Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill' on Broadway at The Circle in The Square Theater on May 15, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
PASADENA, CA - FEBRUARY 22: (L-R) TV personality Gayle King, guest and Oprah Winfrey attend the 45th NAACP Image Awards presented by TV One at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on February 22, 2014 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08: Television personalities Oprah Winfrey (L) and Gayle King (R) attend the Women's Singles Quarterfinals match between Serena Williams of the United States and Venus Williams of the United States on Day Nine of the 2015 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 09: Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey attend The Robin Hood Foundation's 2016 Benefit at Jacob Javitz Center on May 9, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)
ABC SPECIAL - TAKING THE STAGE: AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSIC AND STORIES THAT CHANGED AMERICA, a star-studded special commemorating the opening of the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American History and Culture, taped at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, 9/23/16, will air as a two-hour primetime special on THURSDAY, JANUARY 12 (9:0011:00 p.m. ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) GAYLE KING, OPRAH WINFREY
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: (L-R) Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters, and Gayle King attend the David Geffen Hall Renaming Ceremony & The New York Philharmonic's 2015-16 Opening Gala Concert at Josie Robertson Plaza at Lincoln Center on September 24, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 07: (L-R) TV personality Gayle King, Oprah Winfrey and director Ava DuVernay celebrate The 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards with Moet & Chandon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Moet & Chandon)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 14: Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King are seen leaving the 'Ed Sullivan Theater' on May 14, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 16: (EXCLUSIVE ACCESS) (L-R) Gayle King, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Oprah Winfrey pose backstage at the hit musical 'Hamilton' on Broadway at The Richard Rogers Theater on October 16, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
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Executives have been concerned enough about the program to consider other anchors. CBS News executives even held exploratory talks with Ann Curry, the former co-anchor of “Today” about a potential anchor role at the show, according to four people familiar with the situation. However, those talks predated Zirinsky’s appointment and Curry is not believed to be in active discussions with CBS at present.
Hiring Curry would have caused a stir in the world of morning TV. Curry left “Today” in 2012 after NBC executives became concerned about the way she interacted with Matt Lauer, another former co-host of the program. Her departure captured the sympathies of the audience and lent ballast to “GMA” as it was building new viewership. Since that time, “GMA” has continued to win more viewers than “Today,” while the NBC program captures more audience in the advertiser demo. Hiring her at CBS would have put her up against the NBC program she once called home.
A spokesman for Curry did not respond to a request for comment. She currently hosts the PBS series “We’ll Meet Again” and has a project in the works with AT&T’s WarnerMedia.
Despite the viewership fluctuations, “CBS This Morning” has been on a winning streak in recent weeks when it comes to scoring news-making interviews. King won plaudits this week for her grace under fire in her sit-down with an angry R. Kelly, and O’Donnell secured the first conversation with Sen. Martha McSally following the lawmaker’s disclosure that she was raped and sexually harassed while serving in the military.
Dickerson last month landed the first TV interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders as he unveiled his 2020 presidential bid. Golodryga in February interviewed Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, in his first conversation with an American journalist, defending the electronics company after it came under the scrutiny by the Justice Department for cyber-espionage concerns.
Zirinsky has let it be known she wants CBS News talent to deliver big scoops. The morning hosts have delivered. Whether all of them continue to do so from the same perch will depend on how Zirinsky ultimately chooses to deploy the team.