CBS News breaks in new special report look and sound

CBS News debuted an updated special report look and sound Feb. 22, 2022, when it broke in for coverage of President Joe Biden’s speech on the Russia-Ukraine situation, though a related report Feb. 23, 2022 would use a truncated version.

The overhaul includes an entirely new look for the slate, countdown and open as well as revised lower third banners, video wall graphics, fullscreen graphics, new music and sound effects as well as a matching updated outro graphic.

The new look reflects the network’s overall direction of building upon the “deconstructed eye” look the entire network began transitioning to in October 2020.

For the news division, the look typically includes extruded versions of the various shapes that make up the CBS eye along with a variety of outline, hashmark, circular, microtext and other accents. There is often a white or off white background with additional colors added to match the particular show or use case.

A red graphic reading 'CBS News Special Report' with the number 5

For special reports, the countdown screen is now red with white type and a large, 3D number with a thin circular outline that takes approximately one second to wrap around the numeral.

There’s also a new leader audio effect each time the number changes that has a bit of a synthesized twang to it. 


The circular motif is carried through with a left to right wipe each time the number changes, almost creating the suggestion of a lens.

Like most network countdowns, only 5 through 3 are shown and have the blip, with 2, 1 and 0 still accounted for in the timeline but not acknowledged visually or aurally.

Graphic reading 'CBS News Special Report'

At the zero mark, a large 3D circular element that’s actually the “iris” of the CBS eye is shown. The sides of this circle and the outer “eyelid” parts feature repeating CBS News Special Report logotypes.

The open then features several other views of the 3D environment, including some that take lower, more extreme views as black outlines trace across the screen. 

CBS News Special report graphic

While this appears on screen, the network’s new special report music bed plays, a cut that features a heavy drum bed along with a lower register melody. There’s a hint of a signature with what sound like horns and the cut has similarities to the CBS News Streaming Network music.

Like before, CBS typically does not typically use an announcer for its special report opens, instead having whoever is anchoring simply introduce the cut in while still at least partially off screen. 

A red eyelid shape is then used as a wipe to shift the view to the final title card, which places typography inside the negative space to the left of the iris in the oversized 3D eye element.

Red, white and black graphic reading 'CBS News Special Report'

This space is rendered as white, with the CBS News logo and eye in black while “Special Report” is in red, all set TT Norms, the network’s standard typeface.

There are a series of small dots running along the bottom of the typography with four thin circle accents that appear on screen from left to right. 

On Feb. 22, the network then cut to a short “Crisis in Ukraine” stinger.


The network also updated the lower third insert graphics used during special reports to a layout that’s similar to the look used on “CBS Mornings.”

The new look is also designed around the network’s new, smaller bug, including using it as a base for the initial banner that appears on screen in black with white text at the top of the report. This also features the option to insert a red live bug along with a vertical red line on the far left, an effect borrowed from “Mornings.”

After the report begins, the black banner shrinks to become the top tier of the lower third, also an effect used by “CBS Mornings,” with the words “Special Report” and the live bug text getting slightly bigger.

Below this is the primary red bar that uses white text that is used for both headlines and identifying people shown on screen.

During the Feb. 22 report, CBS also inserted the current market Dow Jones Industrial Average on the right side of the screen inside of a red outlined box for a brief period.

The redesign also includes updated animated backgrounds for box layouts that feature the red and white color scheme with intersecting elements inspired by the eye along with a rotating ring of arrow accents.

CBS also updated the corresponding video wall graphics that are typically used behind anchors, with Feb. 22’s featuring what appeared to be a live feed of the White House with a circular off white overlay with a red ring.

There’s also a line of repeating text reading “CBS News Special Report” that appeared in white when on top of the White House image but then changes to red when it hits the curve.

Presumably this space can also be filled with a generic graphic in the event a live feed isn’t available or appropriate, or can potentially accomodate another topical graphic.

Graphic that encourages viewers to download the CBS News app

Near the end of the report, a fullscreen graphic was shown encouraging viewers to join continuing coverage via streaming and an outro graphic nearly identical to the title card but with copyright information added was shown as the music was brought back up.

The new special report look debut wasn’t a surprise; plans for the transition were already in the works when the network relaunched CBSN as CBS News Streaming Network in January 2022.

Since that debut, there had been a handful of special reports broadcast that used the old look, which initially debuted in January 2020, with some updates rolled out in January 2021.

Previously, CBS had used similar graphics since 2018.