By DAVID BAUDER
NEW YORK — With its Sunday morning political talk show “Face the Nation” doing well in the ratings entering an election year, anchor Bob Schieffer said Sunday the show will match its rivals by expanding to an hour in April.
“You made it possible,” Schieffer told viewers at the end of Sunday’s show. “We don’t plan to change a thing, no bells and whistles. We’ll just keep sitting the key newsmakers down, turning on the lights and asking them questions and then we’ll bring in the experts from in and outside CBS News for analysis.”
Schieffer spent many years in third place in the ratings. But personnel changes have hurt his competitors: “Meet the Press” is no longer dominant with David Gregory as it was with the late Tim Russert, and Christiane Amanpour replaced George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.”
“Meet the Press” still leads this season among all viewers, but in the key news demo of viewers aged 25-to-54, “Face the Nation” is ahead. The Dec. 4 episode of the broadcast had 14 percent more viewers than the same week a year earlier.
“Face the Nation” also has been helped by the strength of CBS’ “Sunday Morning” broadcast, which managers have shored up recently by extending host Charles Osgood’s contract and adding Mo Rocca as a correspondent.
Schieffer didn’t mention it, but the expansion isn’t permanent – at least not yet.
CBS News President David Rhodes said the expansion will be for 20 weeks, through the political conventions, and then will be reevaluated.
CBS News management has wanted for years to expand the show, but has been hampered by restrictions at its affiliates. The network has a two-hour “window” on Sunday mornings, with local stations controlling the rest of the time. CBS managers don’t want to touch the successful, 90-minute “Sunday Morning,” but conflicts at different affiliates have prevented expansion of “Face the Nation.”
Now, with the show going well, CBS decided to move ahead with the expansion, making the bet that it would do well enough that affiliates wouldn’t want to shrink it again after the 20-week period.
“This issue goes back a long time,” Rhodes said. “One thing that’s different now is that it’s No. 1.”
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