As we continue into 2024, it’s no secret that news media is looking for ways to consolidate resources as they face competition from streaming and online news outlets. One of the most recent changes for some broadcast news stations is a major shift in the visibility of their news anchors. E.W. Scripps, which owns stations across the country, recently launched “Scrippscast,” an anchorless newscast where the reporters introduce their stories themselves.
The goal, according to Scripps, is to instead get those anchors to not just read the news but go out into the community to report it. The hope is these rapid-fire types of broadcasts will appeal to the next generation of viewers who are used to watching videos on the phones and tables and generally don’t watch traditional newscasts.
This is a titanic shift in a business that has historically relied on the popularity of its anchors to drive ratings, which is why you see them promoted on buses, billboards, and attending community events to increase visibility and connect with viewers. The popularity of a station’s anchors can often make or break a newscast’s success.
In my first job in television news back in the 80s, our station was mired in third place in ratings with a main anchor team that lagged in popularity compared to the competition. That’s when the station management brought in popular, former Cincinnati Mayor Jerry Springer as anchor of its primary newscasts. Within just a few months, the station had launched into a commanding first place lead. This type of sea change is generally unheard of, with stations taking years trying to overtake competitors. Ultimately, a simple change of talent delivered a major impact.
Now, with shrinking viewership and tighter budgets, stations are trying to find a way around their high-priced anchor teams. The Scrippscast idea is certainly something other station groups around the country will be monitoring – and if successful, copying. The dramatic decrease in cable subscriptions and increase in streaming platforms is forcing local outlets to rethink their operations from top to bottom, and Scripps is hoping that by streamlining its newscasts, it can create an option for the next generation of newscast focused on viewers with shorter attention spans and less focused on personality-driven broadcasts.
The shifting media landscape has already had a profound impact on the PR profession, as securing coverage is increasingly challenging and requires more creativity, relationships and a real news hook. If this trend catches on to other markets, will this provide more opportunities for PR people? Time will tell, but its clear that “anchors away” just might become the new norm?
What do you think about this trend? Do you have favorite news anchors that you’ve watched? Comment below and let us know.