Billionaire Shari Redstone, the controlling shareholder of Paramount Global, the parent company of CBS, has big plans to generate more advertising revenue from the network’s flagship CBS Mornings program.
Redstone plans to expand the two-hour morning program to five hours, from 7:00 am to 12:00 noon daily, which will require a major restructuring of the morning show — including scaling up the on- and off-air talent, doubling the size of the studio space, and creating new well-staffed behind-the-scenes teams of journalists and production staff.
A source familiar with Redstone’s thinking explains that she intends to invest Norah O’Donnell‘s recent $5 million pay cut into ‘staffing up’ the morning show.
Redstone plans to authorize the hiring of as many as twenty new investigative journalists, earning salaries averaging $100,000. Those twenty new largely off-camera journalists will cost the program $2 million each year.
Redstone intends to budget an additional $3 million on mobile production teams that can be deployed across the country to conduct interviews, acquire original footage, and enable deeper sourcing. That budget will likely include between 12 and 16 off-camera production positions.
“The first three hours of CBS Mornings are going to be packed with substantial, original, jaw-dropping journalism of a quality, diversity, and objectivity unseen anywhere else,” the source, who often lunches with Redstone, explains. “Think 60 Minutes but in the morning, often harder-hitting, and very often with an entertainment and cultural bent.”
“The second two hours are going to be modeled on ABC‘s The View, with five women sitting around a table in front of an in-studio audience talking about current events, perhaps interacting with the audience, and hosting guests,” she explains. “Rachel Ray is going to get folded into that, perhaps even taking the lead chair.”
It’s unclear who will fill the other four co-anchor chairs, but big names are being floated — including Oprah Winfrey, Katie Couric, Wanda Sykes, Tamron Hall, Lily Tomlin, Stockard Channing, Connie Chung, Louise Erdrich, Alison Janney, Kristin Chenoweth, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Mary McCormick, Mary-Louise Parker, Eva Longoria, Meg Ryan, Jacquelyn Grant, Winona LaDuke, and Salma Hayek.