Brian Williams Turns Down CBS News’ Attempt to Recruit Him for ‘Evening News’

Just a few years ago, in 2015, the idea that Williams would reject an offer to lead one of the big three evening news programs would have been unfathomable. His reputation was in shambles for sprucing up his stories as a journalist. He was kicked out of “NBC Nightly News” and accepted what was then a significant demotion to MSNBC.

But the tide has since turned.

Williams, who hosted the popular MSNBC “11th Hour” show during the Trump era, has largely rehabilitated her image. Now he is in demand. And after leaving NBC when his contract expired late last year, he is a free agent for the first time in decades. This free agent status translated into Williams’ offers on the field.

One such proposal he was presented with, according to three people familiar with the matter, was to anchor the “CBS Evening News.” According to sources I spoke with, CBS News President and Co-Head Neeraj Khemlani recently attempted to recruit Williams for the network’s flagship evening news program. Two of the sources I spoke with said Khemlani, who took office less than a year ago and has been keen to poach talent, has tried at least twice. But it didn’t help.

Williams, people I spoke to said, is simply uninterested in the evening news job – which speaks volumes not only about Williams’ turn of fortune, but also about the waning appeal to anchor an evening news program, once considered one of journalism’s most prestigious positions.

What about O’Donnell?

The revelation that CBS execs tried to recruit Williams for the ‘Evening News’ doesn’t look too good for Norah O’Donnell, who has anchored the show since 2019 and couldn’t get the show out. third place program.

Publicly, the network supported O’Donnell. When the New York Post reported in October that she was in danger of losing her spot as anchor, Khemlani went to the tabloid’s docket and praised O’Donnell. And on Monday, when asked if she would stay in the anchor chair, Khemlani praised her ratings and said CBS has “no current plans to change” what it does.

But all of this begs the question: if CBS is so pleased with O’Donnell, whose current contract would soon be up, why did they sell his work to others?

What CBS Says

A CBS News executive told me, in response to my reporting on Khemlani trying to recruit Williams, “With all of our recent hires, the arrival of Bob Costa, and today’s streaming launch, it’s not no wonder people are wondering who’s coming on CBS News next. But Brian Williams won’t be doing the evening news. End of story.” A representative for Williams has not commented…

Speaking of the launch of CBS streaming…

CBS revamps its streaming service

“CBS News is revamping its streaming news channel with a new name and slate of programs presented by its marquee anchors who tap into the division’s heritage,” LAT’s Stephen Battaglio wrote Monday. “The ViacomCBS unit today announced that the ad-supported free-to-air channel, known as CBSN since its launch in 2014, will become CBS News Streaming. It will integrate the division’s broadcast franchises into the channel – a change of strategy, as it previously relied heavily on a framework of lesser-known anchors.

Two of these anchors are O’Donnell and Gayle King. “Khemlani would not comment on the contract status of King and O’Donnell, whose contracts are up this year,” wrote Battaglio, who interviewed Khemlani for his story. “Their future has been the subject of TV news industry speculation. Including them in an announcement for two high profile shows suggests they will likely remain on the network.”

“I will tell you that Gayle and Norah and Tony Dokoupil and the presenters and reporters at all levels are showing tremendous leadership in terms of contributing to the service, and they are the pace cars for the entire division,” said Khemlani in Battaglio. “We’re thrilled to be able to tap into people of this caliber and not have separate teams at every level…”

>> THR’s Alex Weprin adds: “CBS also announced an expansion of its local news streaming offerings, with CBS News Miami launching on Monday and CBS News Detroit launching by the end of 2022…”

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