Charlie Rose is out of a job and CBS News is down a household name — but the network seems more likely to absorb the fallout from the latest sexual harassment scandal to hit the media world.
Since CBS relaunched its weekday morning show with Rose and co-anchor Gayle King in 2011, ratings have soared 37 percent, from 2.63 million total viewers to 3.59 million this year. (Norah O’Donnell replaced holdover Erica Hill as the show’s third anchor in 2012.)
“CBS This Morning” still trails ABC’s “Good Morning America” (with 4.4 million total viewers) and NBC’s “Today” (with 4.26 million) — but both have lost eyeballs over the same time period. In the 2011-12 season, “GMA” had nearly 5.4 million viewers and “Today” a solid 5 million.
Industry watchers said the CBS show’s steady climb in ratings has as much to do with its more straitlaced approach to news as it does to its anchors, Rose included.
“The reason ‘CBS This Morning’ has made such advances in the ratings, I believe, is because of the decision to focus on serious news, as opposed to the lighter approach of the two other morning shows,” ABC News correspondent Judy Muller told TheWrap.
“Charlie Rose gave them a ‘senior correspondent’ serious image,” she added.
Thanks in part to his long tenure on air — including his popular eponymous interview show that ran on PBS since 1991 — Rose has enjoyed a good deal of personal popularity.
In TheWrap‘s 2014 study of Positive Q Scores — a metric of one’s likability used by the industry for casting and endorsement decisions — Rose ranked sixth of 16 morning show personalities. He outpaced both “GMA” anchor George Stephanopoulos and “Today” veteran Matt Lauer.
Still, the 75-year-old’s reputation was unlikely to survive after multiple accusations of sexual misconduct toward nearly a dozen women at both PBS and CBS News emerged this week. The news on Tuesday led CBS to fire him and PBS to cut ties with his production company, effectively canceling his interview show.
“Morning show audiences rely on the consistency and integrity of the hosts they come to trust and enjoy over a period of time,” Cathleen Londino, the author of “The Today Show: Transforming Morning Television,” told TheWrap.
“CBS is right to take a clean and immediate break from Rose. It allows the audience to then rally around the other talent, so they can continue to do the show without major disruption,” she added.
And while Rose was instrumental in branding “CBS This Morning” as the no-nonsense alternative to “Today” and “GMA,” his absence may not prove detrimental. “I don’t see much impact for the loss of Charlie Rose from the CBS morning show,” Joe Saltzman, journalism professor at USC’s Annenberg School of Communications, told TheWrap.
Insider said that the network’s swift action in firing Rose should benefit the show going forward. “As long as the audience has confidence in what appears to be the right action,” Londino said, “ratings may take an immediate but temporary dip and shouldn’t cause panic.”
And while the network last month promoted sometime morning replacement Jeff Glor to anchor “The CBS Evening News,” the division does have a deep bench of talent to draw upon.
“CBS has a strong stable of serious (and older) correspondents with great reporting chops,” said Muller, a veteran of the network herself.
Saltzman had another suggestion as well: “They might bring back someone the public trusts, perhaps even Dan Rather.”
Ryan Gajewski contributed to this report.