OPEN TEASES MUST SET THE TONE
How do you open your morning newscast? Let me guess. Video of that overnight fire, wiping to that avalanche caught on tape, wiping to the footage of a dolphin giving birth. Music is urgent, your talent is breathless and graphics are flashing all over the screen. Yep. You’re producing that pre-open tease exactly as Walk Away Joe tells you to do it. If you’re producing a personality-driven newscast, Joe, aka your news consultant, is dead wrong. Here’s why.
On my shows, the first thing viewers see is the talent – and the first thing they hear is the talent’s name – because quite simply, that’s who they’re tuning in for. Putting your talent’s name (spoken) and face together is vital to establishing name recognition in this day and age when most opens are covered with compelling video. News opens don’t run 10 seconds anymore as this supposedly gives viewers an opportunity to channel surf. I’ve watched so many morning newscasts that don’t name the talent either verbally or with a font. What is that about? My last five newscasts have all opened the same way – because my format works. But if you watch more closely, each open is different because these pre-teases immediately set up the “tone” of the show – the “attitude” – along with setting up your talent.
THE KTLA MORNING NEWS
Let’s begin with The KTLA Morning News in Los Angeles. Not only do the anchors say their names, but the open that follows reintroduces them. Repetition is so essential.
It wasn’t flashy or trashy. It just did the job introducing your talent and setting the tone. Not that I’m incapable of flash and trash.
E! NEWS LIVE!
E! News Live wasn’t, technically, a morning show, although I borrowed a lot of elements from them to help emphasize the talent. This open has some flash, some trash, and so much more:
OK, I admit, this one ran a little long. But as you can see, we used every A-lister possible in the teases to grab the younger viewers. The hosts’ names were each heard twice, they were on-camera at the top, and video teases were included. Again, that open spoke volumes about the attitude of this show.
EYE OPENER (CHICAGO)
This next open, from the Chicago edition of the nationally syndicated Eye Opener, wreaks of attitude.
Here’s a second open from that show – where we become a bit saucier with our language. Be aware that the Chicago version of Eye Opener was pre-taped and posted, which allowed us to add in the bleeps:
EYE OPENER (DALLAS)
The revamped Dallas version of Eye Opener wasn’t as snarky as its Chicago sister, but far more playful:
GOOD MORNING AMERICA SUNDAY
And then there’s Good Morning America Sunday. That show was an experiment from beginning to end because the weekday version was very prim and proper and 100% serious – and we were expected to follow suit. The first thing I did was insist the anchors refer to the show on-air as G-M-A Sunday versus Good Morning America Sunday. The weekday anchors always said the looooong name of the show. Actually using the letters G-M-A is just about my only lasting legacy at the network. We were still in the process of lightening up when this open aired and as you’ll see, Bill Ritter is totally game:
Geez, I actually flinched just now watching this when Bill dropped that cup! He got me all these years later! We hadn’t gotten to the point of cutting to closeups on the talent yet during the open tease. That came in later weeks. And FYI, there was a union guy who got paid to do nothing but babysit the fireplace. Whenever we used it, the fire code required a sitter!
In a lot of respects, these opens would be considered old-fashioned. And that’s why they seem to have an appeal to morning viewers. The focus is on the personalities, not the content. Local and network prime time shows are all about splash and flash anymore, and “personality” gets lost in the process. As an example, I can’t identify a single star on those CSI shows because the opens have been ditched and the star’s names are lower third fonts during the first act. So a name and face are never married together in my mind. When I look at the Emmy nominations, I have to Google the names because no face comes to mind when I just see the name. And that’s not good for Shemar Moore‘s Q-Score.
The open teases for a personality-driven format must accomplish three things: a) identify your talent both visually and verbally, b) establish a tone or attitude for the show, and c) tease the viewer into hanging around to watch. I would urge all, producers to experiment with open teases – not just settle for those format variations above. Any one of us could one day stumble upon a brilliant new way to open our shows.