The team behind CBS news staple “60 Minutes” is used to being the ones investigating stories, but The Hollywood Reporter recently took a long, hard look at the producers, correspondents and inner-workings of the longtime documentary news program.
In a lengthy piece titled “The Secret World Behind ’60 Minutes,'” THR unveils how the show has managed to stay on the air for 45 years despite huge production costs and time commitments of years.
Some stories — specifically those requiring war-zone reporting which adds extra security, transportation, and insurance fees — can cost upwards of $200,000 for one segment. Other stories have taken years to report.
Here are the 20 most interesting things we learned about “the secret world behind ’60 Minutes'”:
- GettyJeff Fager is only the second executive producer at “60 Minutes” in 45 years.’60 Minutes’ has changed little since the CBS News program debuted 45 years ago.
- The show has had exactly two executive producers in 45 years: Don Hewitt, who died in 2009, and current EP, Jeff Fager. “Don liked drama,” recalled Morley Safer, but Lesley Stahl says Fager is “sane.” With Fager in charge, emphasises Safer, “there isn’t quite so much blood on the floor.”
- The show only does about 100 stories a year on 31 broadcasts and each season runs from September to May.
- Each correspondent works with a regular team of five to six producers whose job it is to pound the pavement for stories.
- Deeply-reported pieces can take months — even years — to come together.
- The show has garnered a whopping 12.7 million viewers this season — more than double the viewership of NBC’s “Dateline,” its closest competitor.
- The median age of the audience is 60, which has made the show too ancient to charge advertisers a premium.
- But it still pulls in close to 4 million viewers in the 25-to-54 demographic — that’s more than “Parks and Recreation,” “The Good Wife,” “The Mindy Project,” and all of the broadcast late-night show.
- “60 Minutes” booked $123 million in ad revenue in 2012, up from $115 million the year prior, according to Kantar Media.
- “There’s no secret to the success of the broadcast,” says correspondent Morley Safer, 81, who joined the show in 1970. “It is staying out of the gutter and handling just about any kind of story imaginable. And at some point, maybe around the 25th year, we became a habit.”
- “It remains the primetime newsmagazine of record,” says Paul Bogaards, executive vp at Alfred A. Knopf, who placed Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on the show to support her controversial memoir “Lean In.” “It’s not just the viewership, it’s the kind of viewer that you are capturing … We know that the book segments on “60 Minutes” drive results.”
- Subjects are given no control over how they are presented or what material makes it into the piece.
- A popular piece earlier this year featuring Steven Spielberg’s parents was initially supposed to be an interview with the director’s wife, Kate Capshaw, but she decided not to do it.
- There will be no mention of viral video sensation “Kony 2012” — which has nearly 1 BILLION hits on YouTube — in Lara Logan’s upcoming piece on the hunt for African warlord Joseph Kony because producer Jeff Fager thinks the video was “such a Hollywood thing.”
- CBS/”60 Minutes”Ultimately, EP Jeff Fager has the final say — not correspondents like Lara Logan — on what is cut and what is kept in a piece.Logan’s Kony piece, which will air in late April, was six months in the making and cost between $125,000 and $150,000 — the segment is not even the most expensive for the newsmagazine.
- “The show’s war-zone reporting in such hotspots as Afghanistan and Syria, where transportation, insurance, and security cost dearly (private security can double the cost of a piece), can easily run to $200,000 for each segment,” reports THR.
- That’s more than double the cost of an entire hour of some newsmagazines in the post-crash media economy.
- “I can promise you that when you see less international reporting in other parts of broadcast news, it’s because of the expense,” says Producer Jeff Fager. “And that’s because they’ve deemed the audience uninterested. If we think it’s important, the onus is on us to make it as interesting as we can. We don’t say the audience is turned off by the war in Afghanistan. Screw that.”
- Fager adds that even while sparing no cost, “60 Minutes” — and the CBS news division overall — is profitable.
- But domestic pieces do well, too: Steve Kroft’s 2008 sit-down with then-newly-elected President Obama and Michelle Obama at the Chicago Ritz-Carlton 10 days after the election garnered more than 25 million viewers — at the time, the show’s biggest audience in nine years.
- “The most important thing about that show is the quality. They take time to do those stories,” says CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves, who persuaded Fager to take the chairmanship job at CBS News in early 2011 after many months of wooing. “Could Jeff do the show cheaper? Probably. But that’s not the place to scrimp.”
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