Stephen Battaglio

If Couric Exits CBS, Who Could Fill the Anchor Chair?

Anderson Cooper courtesy CNN, Harry Smith by John Filo/CBS, Diane Sawyer by Ida Mae Astute/ABC

If Katie Couric does leave the CBS Evening News anchor chair, here are the leading candidates to replace her and what they bring to the table.
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What Makes Presidential Debates So Great?

John Kerry and George Bush courtesy NBC

Who ever thought the presidential primary debates would be one of the biggest TV attractions of the year? Cable news channels have reaped record ratings and even the broadcast networks have been vying for the events because of viewer interest. It should only grow more intense when the two nominees meet in the fall. The debates are already scheduled for Sept. 26, Oct. 7 and Oct. 15. But getting the candidates to participate has never been easy according to a new book Inside the Presidential Debates ( shop by Craig L. Lamay and Newton N. Minow, a former FCC commissioner and vice chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has organized the face-offs in every election year since 1976. The Biz talked to the authors about what makes the debates so great.
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CNN's John Roberts Touts a Very Good Morning

John Roberts courtesy CNN

Former CBS News veteran John Roberts is coming up on his first year as co-anchor of CNN's American Morning. While it's not getting the same ratings boom that the cable network is experiencing the rest of the day, AM's first-quarter audience is up 11 percent from a year ago as Roberts and co-anchor Kiran Chetry offer a more straight-ahead alternative to the entertainment/news hybrids that the broadcast networks and Fox News offer in the morning. But Roberts tells The Biz the program will be getting some adjustments when a new executive producer comes onboard. Your anniversary on American Morning is the same day as the [anniversary] of the biggest domestic stories of last year, the Virginia Tech shooting.John Roberts: On April 16 Kiran and I did our very first show together. I was in Washington, she was in New York. Literally at the end of the show the Virginia Tech shooting broke and we found ourselves on the road. It's a shame that was such a tragedy that threw us right... read more

David Gregory Heats Up Race for MSNBC

David Gregory by Virginia Sherwood/NBC

There's been a lot of David Gregory on NBC News lately. When he's not reporting from the White House, he's filling in for Matt Lauer on Today or Tim Russert on Meet the Press. Not enough for you? This week he starts anchoring his own nightly show on cable news channel MSNBC, Race for the White House with David Gregory (6 pm/ET), designed to feed the growing number of political junkies following the amazing 2008 presidential campaign. The Biz talked to Gregory about his new program, the recent rise of MSNBC and whether there's any chance he'll have a new network address in the future. You're hours away from the first show. What are we going to see?David Gregory: We're going to have a terrific panel. They'll be some swapping out, but not different faces every night. We want it to be a smart, fast-paced take on the race, day in and day out, by people who follow it closely and have different points of view. We'll start with Joe Scarborough [host of MSNBC's Morning Joe] and... read more

Meet John McCain's (Boston) Legal Eagle

John McCain, Anne Turk and Craig Turk courtesy Craig Turk

When it comes to showbiz connections in the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. Barack Obama has Oprah Winfrey, Gov. Mike Huckabee has Chuck Norris, and Sen. John McCain has... Craig Turk?It's a name familiar only to viewers who've studied the credits of Law & Order, Cold Case and Boston Legal, where Turk has written episodes. But he's also had key behind-the-scenes roles in McCain's presidential bids.Back in 1999, Turk was a Harvard-trained lawyer working in Washington, D.C., specializing in election law and government ethics when McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, approached him about doing legal work for the candidate. Turk was hired as general counsel for the 2000 campaign and began riding McCain's Straight Talk Express bus.The experience got Turk deeper into politics. He went to Montenegro to work on a sovereignty referendum for the European nation and consulted for developing political parties in Asia and Eastern Europe. "I loved the travel and the sense that I was making... read more

TV King Norman Lear Holds a Masters Class

Norman Lear by Jean-Paul Aussenard/

Folk singer Pete Seeger was a major part of the soundtrack of the '60s, backing up his music with a lifetime of tireless antiwar and environmental activism. As such he'll be the subject of the next American Masters, which premieres Feb. 27 on PBS. The executive producer of the film is another prominent progressive — legendary TV mogul and philanthropist Norman Lear. The producer of classic sitcoms such as All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons, One Day at a Time (we could go on) has been active in getting young people registered to vote. He still makes hits, too, but now it's for his label Concord Music Group (James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Paul McCartney are on his roster). He's also half-owner of Village Roadshow Pictures (which produced I Am Legend), and owns a copy of one of the world's most famous historical documents. The Biz recently checked in with You're certainly at a stage in life where you can be choosy about your projects — so why Pete Seeg... read more

Behind the Scenes of Super Tuesday

Brit Hume courtesy Fox News

For viewers, Super Tuesday was a dizzying night of spinning graphics, graphs and maps. But it would mean nothing without the number crunchers who sift through the exit polls and the vote count. TV Guide took a seat at the Fox News “decision desk” as the results rolled in to get a feel for how the electoral sausage gets made.6:30 pm The Fox decision-desk team includes academics, a pollster, a veteran election-results analyst, and Fox News senior vice president John Moody, who’ll make the final determination on when anchor Brit Hume will call a race. The polls are still open, but the team is already poring over exit-poll numbers from the research firm that delivers the numbers to all of the networks. But instead of being holed up in a back room, they are smack in the middle of the news channel’s Super Tuesday set — a mix of lucite, steel and plasma TV screens that could serve as the set for a futuristic musical stage production. The team, who look they like be... read more

Could the Conventions Be This Summer's Reality Hit?

Hillary Clinton courtesy CBS

Who knew that the 2008 race for the White House would become a hot network prime-time show? NBC is likely to join CBS and ABC in expanding the number of hours they devote to covering Super Tuesday on Feb. 5, the day when 24 states will have primaries or caucuses to help choose a party ominee. "Everyone has been surprised at the public's level of interest," one network news exec tells The Biz. "But if there wasn't a writers' strike, would we be having this conversation?"Maybe not. It probably wasn't a tough choice for CBS to pull a repeat episode of The Unit to give Katie Couric an extra hour to cover what will be a fairly complex story, as the distribution of delegates based on the voting results can vary by state.But if the 2008 race continues to be a battle royale between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side, and Sen. John McCain is still fighting it out with Mitt Romney in the GOP race, the broadcast networks may find themselves closer to reversing an... read more

Is the Strike Helping American Idol?

American Idol contestant Tehilla Takila Lauder courtesy FOX

American Idol is back. The ratings for the first two nights weren't as big as last year, but still much bigger than everything else in prime time. But will AI stand out as the writers' strike leads the networks to flood their schedules with reality competitions and game shows? The Biz caught up with Fox's master of reality Mike Darnell to get his thoughts on Idol and the rest of TV's unscripted landscape. So you're not worried about the ratings decline that Idol experienced its first two nights?Mike Darnell: I couldn't be happier with these numbers. I'm about as excited as I've ever been for the show. In Season 7, (in audience share) it's still in the 30s. That's an amazing thing for a television show. With DVRs and everything else, and it's so much bigger — it's increased its span between it and the next biggest Wasn't there anticipation that you might do better this season because of the strike?Darnell: I never had that anticipation. No one her... read more

Inside The Early Show's Latest Jump-start

Dave Price, Harry Smith, Julie Chen, Maggie Rodriguez, and Russ Mitchell by John Filo/CBS

CBS' The Early Show has gone through a lot of changes over the years, but it hasn't managed to significantly move the ratings needle against NBC's Today or ABC's Good Morning America. Another attempt to jump-start the program starts Jan. 7, when for the first time since the late 1990s the program will be carried in its entirety by all of the CBS affiliates. There's also a new addition to the anchor team as Maggie Rodriguez moves from the Saturday Early Show to join Harry Smith, Julie Chen, Dave Price and Russ Mitchell on weekday duty. Executive producer Shelley Ross brought The Biz up-to-date about the changes So set us straight on what will change in terms of the affiliates.Ross: [What will change are the] viewers in very important cities like Las Vegas, Nashville and Baltimore, which represent about 23 percent of our affiliates, won't get the full Early Show. They just get parts of it and they get local programming. They dip in and out of our show. To those view... read more

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