Tom Llamas is ready to leap into an increasingly crowded field for evening news.
The NBC News anchor, who previously led a streaming evening program at ABC News, is preparing for the launch of a digital evening endeavor for NBC News, a project he vows will have a kinetic feel and range a little further afield than the linear products that still represent the best-known examples of the format.
“This is going to be a fast-paced, high-story-count nightly newscast,” says Llamas in an interview. As news aficionados see an increase in programming options due to new streaming ventures, his show will need to bottle some of the ready energy he exudes, even in a simple phone conversation. “Before, television viewers used to have to find you,” Llamas adds. “Now, we have to sort of find the viewer.”
Starting on Sept. 20, Llamas’ new program will stream at 7 p.m. weekdays on NBC News Now, the NBCUniversal-backed news operation’s nascent streaming-video outlet. Its debut is the latest sign of NBC’s growing commitment to streaming. NBC poached Llamas from ABC News, where he was an anchor on the rise: He led ABC News’ weekend “World News Tonight” broadcast and worked as its chief national affairs correspondent. He also served as a breaking-news anchor for ABC News Live, that company’s live-streaming service — and will vie with the service’s own evening-news program, which is anchored by Linsey Davis.
Indeed, the new show — two different titles are being considered, says Llamas, who did not reveal the various options — will add to the stack of news options aimed at the consumer looking for a fact fix just after the workday ends. In addition to the three broadcast evening newscasts and PBS’ “NewsHour,” evening-time news aficionados also have the ABC News streaming effort, CNBC’s “The News With Shepard Smith” (also on the air at 7 p.m.), CNN’s “The Situation Room” and Fox News Channel’s “Special Report With Bret Baier.”
Indeed, news junkies are likely to have an avalanche of new content as every mainstream TV-news organization places new emphasis on reaching viewers through content they can watch at times and in places of their own choosing, not at set moments on a TV schedule. CNN plans to launch a new streaming endeavor early next year and is hiring hundreds of staffers to make it happen. NBC News has also vowed to hire 200 to help fulfill its ambitions in the new medium. And Fox News Media plans to launch a streaming service focused on the weather while expanding the content offerings in its Fox Nation subscription outlet.
To stand apart from the pack, Llamas intends to give his viewers a sense of the breadth of the company’s newsgathering efforts, burnishing reports and correspondents from across NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC, Sky News and Telemundo. He will rely on that last media outlet to help his devote time each day to a segment called “The Americas,” which will focus on Latin America as well as issue of importance to Hispanic Americans. “There’s no excuse not to have some type of a story that affects this audience or this region,” Llamas says. He also expects to rely on NBC News contributors such as Vicky Nguyen and Stephanie Ruhle.
The show will also highlight Llamas’ own reporting, whether it be in the form of enterprise stories or his work from the field when he is on assignment. That may be frequent, as Llamas’ duties also include working as a national correspondent for NBC News and contributing to “Today” and “NBC Nightly News.”
“I think what matters is that the audience wants to trust you, and if they see you out there working a story, they know you have a sense of what’s happening on the ground.”
NBC viewers have seen plenty of the anchor in recent weeks. He has filled in for Lester Holt on “NBC Nightly News” and traveled to Japan for NBCUniversal’s recent Olympics coverage. As the digital show ramps up, expect to see more. “I want to stay busy,” Llamas says.