CBS News builds election studio in Times Square

CBS News is creating a 2020 “election headquarters” at the ViacomCBS headquarters in Times Square.

To prepare for coverage, CBS has built a custom election set on the second level of the building, just above a series of retail outlets — in roughly the same area that was once home to MTV’s “Total Request Live.”

The design of the set closely follows the clean lines, rectangular forms and metallic and edge lit glass elements found on the “CBS Evening News” set in Washington, D.C. 

The studio, from Jack Morton Worldwide and built by Showman Fabricators, features multiple LED video walls from Planar that can be configured to showcase virtual set extension style elements inspired by the network’s new “America Decides” branding.

The ViacomCBS building (previously known as simply the Viacom building) is also home to The Minskoff Theatre, which is normally where Disney’s hit musical “The Lion King” plays eight times a week, but the show, like others on broadway, is closed until at least May 30, 2021 due to coronavirus concerns.

On the exterior, CBS can display its election logo on the large digital billboard above one of the building’s entrances.

The meanwhiles, meanwhile, have been covered by large election and CBS News branded banners, which includes the updated sans serif logotype the network began rolling out in early October 2020.

Of course, Times Square is no stranger to broadcast setups.

Not only does it host multiple network live shot locations during most New Year’s Eve celebrations, Disney owned ABC operates a large, multistory studio just a short distance from the ViacomCBS building that is used for “Good Morning America” and “GMA3: What You Need to Know.”

In the past, the upper level of this space has also been home to temporary sets built for election night. 

While 1515 Broadway is not directly across the street from ABC’s studios, certain camera angles do make parts of the building appear in the background, including the Viacom (and now ViacomCBS) logos. 

Since then, however, ABC renovated Studio TV3 inside its Lincoln Square headquarters that was used for Super Tuesday and other major election coverage throughout 2020 and likely will be used again on election night.

In addition, CNN has rented out the Nasdaq MarketSite on one end of Times Square, which features a massive two-story curved video wall, for election night coverage.

CNBC’s “Squawk Box” also has a semi-permanent home on the first floor of the NASDAQ building, though it has not been using it consistently lately due to social distancing concerns. 

Times Square has also hosted temporary, freestanding studios such as the one used for Fox’s Super Bowl coverage in 2014.

NBC previously held the rights to a large digital billboard on one side of One Times Square that would typically make an appearance at the end of “Nightly News” with a camera focused on the screen that pulled out as the broadcast signed off each evening. 

In 2006, NBC’s deal ended and News Corp., then the parent company of what are now the Fox Media holdings, took over.

One Times Square is also the home of the famous diamond ball that drops on New Years Eve.