NEW YORK - The soft sell of successor Katie Couric by Bob Schieffer ends with this simple request: "Just watch." The promotion that has begun airing on CBS News programs is the first step of CBS News' sales job for Couric, who starts Sept. 5 as the new "CBS Evening News" anchor.
The idea is to have Schieffer introduce Couric to his audience, and he ad-libs in his amiable style. Couric appears briefly on the screen, looking serious and talking on the phone, but does not speak.
Phase two later this month will be ads featuring Couric talking about the news and how to cover it, said CBS News President Sean McManus. The ads will gradually branch out to other CBS programs, then to other networks, he said.
In August, advertising for Couric's debut will include specific promotions for segments in the "CBS Evening News," he said.
"There's not a great necessity to let people know that she is starting on Sept. 5," McManus said. "The entire world will know that. We're trying to give a sense of transition."
Couric, McManus, "CBS Evening News" executive producer Rome Hartman and his team met last week for their first nuts-and-bolts planning session on the new broadcast. The newsroom studio where Schieffer and Dan Rather presided over the newscast has been torn down and a new one will rise in its place.
Couric is also traveling to six cities, including Denver and San Diego, in a "listening tour" series of meetings with viewers to hear some of their ideas about what they want for the news.
While it is tempting to give the evening news a revolutionary new look, McManus said it doesn't make sense. The median age of evening-news viewers among the three broadcast networks is over 60, and they're not looking for shocks.
"If we can bring in a younger audience and a different audience, great," he said. "But we would be very shortsighted if we were to do something that would alienate the people who are used to watching the news at 6:30."