CBS launching ‘Now’-branded newscasts at owned-stations July 18

First on NewscastStudio: CBS Television Stations is preparing to launch a series of new newscasts for non-CBS affiliated stations it owns starting the week of July 18, 2022.

The newscasts will appear under the common brand name “Now” and will share production between stations in the group, becoming the latest broadcasts of this type to rely on a hub model.

In New York, the group will add “CBS News New York Now” at 9 p.m. eastern time on WLNY. Boston’s WSBK, a MyNetworkTV station, is set to debut “CBS News Boston Now” at 10 p.m. as well. In Philadelphia, CW affiliate WPSG will launch “CBS News Philly Now on CW Philly” at 10 p.m. 

In Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas, CBS will launch a 9 p.m. central time “Now” newscast on KTXA, an independent station it owns in the market along with KTVT. It will be called “CBS News DFW Now on TXA21.” In Detroit, WKBD will launch “Detroit News Now.”

WUPA in Atlanta, which has been airing a 10 p.m. local time newscast produced mostly out of Dallas for some time, will rebrand the broadcast as “Atlanta Now News at 10 on Atlanta’s CW” starting July 18. CBS does not own its affiliate in this market. 

KBCW in San Fransisco will also add a 10 p.m. newscast, called “CBS News Bay Area Now on KBCW.”

In Tacoma, KSTW will resume newscasts for the first time since 2005 under the “Seattle Now News at 10 on CW11” moniker, according to information obtained from program listings and confirmed by CBS.

Others in the group are expected to launch next week as well including Miami on WBFS (“CBS News Miami Now at 9”) and Tampa Bay (“Tampa Bay Now News at 10 on CW44”) on WTOG

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Overall, the strategy appears to be to use the “CBS News (Market Name)” branding in markets where the network owns at least the CBS affiliate and already operates a newsroom. In markets where it does not have a news operation, it will use the “(Market Name) News Now,” removing the “CBS News” reference.

The inclusion of the time in the title or not appears to vary depending on market. 

In many cases, the branding strategy ends up creating names that are almost comically long, tongue-twisting and slightly repetitive. 

Although not titled this way officially, a promo airing on KTXA in Dallas appears to suggest the broadcast will be called “CBS News DFW Now News at 9” (with “News” appearing twice), although the “News at 9” line appears to be more of a stylistic element to emphasize that the offering is a newscast.

NewscastStudio has obtained clips that appear to be a collection of rehearsals and production tests that use updated graphics that are more in line with the “deconstructed eye” look that CBS has been rolling out since 2020 and added to its rebranded streamer CBS News Now Streaming Network earlier in 2022.

CBS News and Stations is currently hiring for a new group design director to lead the design and branding of the local stations along with special event coverage. CBS-owned stations are expected to roll out a new group graphics package later this fall that continues the brand evolution.

It’s not immediately clear what CBS properties will handle production, but test clips show Dallas and New York-based talent, typically with a virtual set background behind them using just the “Now” branding without any local references, suggesting that the goal is to be able to use content in multiple markets where possible. 

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Themed segments will appear in the newscasts and be shared among the broadcasts, such as “Health Now,” “Money Now” and “Hope Now,” with local packages, weather and sports segments mixed in.

CBS News DFW anchor Doug Dunbar appears in this clip obtained by NewscastStudio. The clip uses a virtual set that appears to be inspired by the main CBS News Streaming Network studio in New York.

So far, all of the visuals obtained by NewscastStudio use a three-block logotype with each letter of “Now” in its own box, set in the TT Norms font, the typeface CBS has been transitioning to and is expected to become standard at its local stations as well, replacing Gotham and others.

The design shares some similarities between the logo design WBZ has used for years. It’s also similar, though more tightly spaced, than the BBC logo.

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The changes do not appear to be affecting the schedule at the network duopoly in Los Angeles, which earlier in July announced plans to add morning news to independent station KCAL as well as to start airing “CBS Mornings” twice on KCBS. KCAL already airs a 10 p.m. newscast under the name “KCAL News at 10” but it is not clear if it will retitle under the “Now” brand.

The launch of the “Now” newscasts will be the first project from an “innovation lab” CBS TV stations announced earlier in 2022.

At the time, the network indicated the project as an effort to launch “hybrid, local-to-national multiplatform newscasts” that it billed as “next-generation storytelling,” it originally told Variety in January 2022.

In reality, the CBS effort is really just an approach to the familiar hub concept of newscast production where talent, newsroom and production teams in other markets produce content for other stations, typically corporate cousins. 

Hubbed newscasts, which can vary in how much production is handled by the distant station and local one, are not unique to CBS but have earned a reputation as a cost-savings method that removes locally-based teams from content production and leaving many viewers unaware that the anchor seemingly delivering their “local” news is sitting hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Advocates of the format say the concept allows stations to offer more programming options and that where the talent or editorial team is located isn’t important to most viewers. 

The effort also appears to be a doubling-down on the “CBS News (Market Name)” mandate in owned markets designed to reinforce the network news division’s name. That strategy, in turn, was also at least partially behind the decision to drop the “CBSN” name from the network’s national and regional streamers.

This means the national feed formerly known as CBSN is now just as “CBS News.” Regional streaming offerings that used the “CBSN (Market Name)” format are now “CBS News (Market Name).”

This muddies the waters at both levels because it’s not always quite clear if “CBS News” is referring to the streaming service or the network news division; in some cases the name “CBS News Streaming Network” is used to help differentiate. In the local markets, “CBS News (Market Name)” can be used to refer to both the local news brand as a whole or the streamer itself (or both simultaneously). 

However, at least part of the strategy could be making “CBS News” and its regional equivalents more ubiquitous, platform-agnostic names in the minds of consumers.

CBS-owned stations also appear to be continuing to use their individual branding for the newscasts, such as “CBS 3 Eyewitness News” in Philadelphia. In cases where a broadcast is airing on both the TV channel and streamer, graphics and scripts often refer to both “CBS 3” and “CBS News Philly.”

Branding as “CBS (Channel Number)” has been a mandate for most O&Os for years, but it was used to refer to both the entire station as well as newscasts, though with news branding tacked on for the latter.

The “Now” branding has been used previously at some CBS stations, including KTVT, as a name for a web-exclusive video update in the past, and is hardly a unique name in TV news.

It also dates back to at least 2017 on CBSN.

Other stations use the word “Now” in their news branding, including “8 News Now” at KLAS in Las Vegas and for a 24-hour digital channel called “News 9 Now” at KWTV in Oklahoma City.

It’s also prominently used for NBC News’ streaming effort, which is called NBC News Now and includes the word “Now” in many of its program names. Officially, NBC capitalizes all of the letters in “Now” in an effort to make the name unique and brandable, similar to what it does with “Today.” 

NBC News Now launched in 2019, at least several years after CBSN first used the “Now” branding.

Corrections: An earlier version of this story identified KTXA with the wrong network affiliation. It is an independent station and the story has been updated. Earlier versions of this story contained errors in the new newscast titles but have been updated with the ones provided by CBS. In a previous version, Dallas anchor Doug Dunbar’s name was spelled incorrectly.

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