CBS is rebuilding its morning franchise in another attempt to escape the ratings cellar, betting on a sober-minded news broadcast behind hosts Charlie Rose, Erica Hill and Gayle King.
The new program, which doesn't have a name yet, will replace "The Early Show" from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and will debut on Jan. 9.
Its new Manhattan studio and newsroom were a dusty construction zone on Tuesday, symbolizing CBS' efforts to start an entirely new show instead of make cosmetic changes on the old one. CBS has been third in the ratings behind NBC's "Today" show and ABC's "Good Morning America" for decades.
CBS News chairman Jeff Fager said the new show will be "hard news but not all serious."
"It's going to be a program that's very different, that doesn't try to copy what's already out there and will be fulfilling to our viewers," Fager said.
Rose, who will continue his late-night PBS interview show, will co-anchor the first hour with Hill, who has been on "The Early Show" for the past two years. King, a veteran talk show host, will join the panel at 8 a.m., an hour when morning show viewership is dominated by women. King said she is discontinuing her talk show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN, and her satellite radio program.
Rose was recruited by Fager, with whom he has a long working relationship at CBS. King was the suggestion of the new show's executive producer, Chris Licht, because he liked how she did as an occasional guest on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," where he was the producer before joining CBS earlier this year.
Rose said he was "thrilled" to be on the new show.
"CBS has a new spirit today," he said, "and it builds on the tradition that I have known for a long time."
CBS sees a niche for a more serious show at a time its chief rivals have moved in a softer direction, with rock concerts, Halloween costumes and more attention paid to tabloid stories, such as the Amanda Knox case and Kim Kardashian's marital breakup. Fager said it bluntly: "We're not going to do cooking."
The new show also won't have a weatherman. Regular cast members will include veteran newsman John Miller, business correspondent Rebecca Jarvis and correspondent Jeff Glor.
"Today" hasn't lost a week in the Nielsen ratings since 1995. It averages 5.24 million viewers this season, with "Good Morning America" at 4.77 million. "The Early Show" averages 2.83 million.
Distant third, Fager said, is "a phrase I hate hearing." It's also one that he's not used to, as executive producer of the highly rated newsmagazine "60 Minutes." He said it was amazing to him that CBS doesn't do better in the morning given that it dominates in the prime-time ratings, with shows such as "NCIS," "Two and a Half Men" and "Survivor."
CBS has received some critical praise by toughening up "The Early Show" with the current cast of Hill and the soon-to-be-ousted Chris Wragge, but its viewership is slightly down from last year. "Today" is slightly up, while "Good Morning America" is up by a half-million viewers a day.
CBS News president David Rhodes said the numbers don't indicate that CBS is overestimating interest in a harder news broadcast. He said the new team will make for a significantly different broadcast.
"If it was as simple as just being harder," Rhodes said, "we would have just been harder with what we are doing."
CBS is a subsidiary of the CBS Corp. ABC is a unit of The Walt Disney Co. NBC is controlled by the Comcast Corp.