Morgan Radford is the newest anchor on NBC’s fast-growing streaming-only news channel News Now, creating firsts for her and network news.
It will not only be the first time Radford will be an anchor on NBC, joining Aaron Gilchrist next week in an afternoon block on the 24/7 news channel on streamer Peacock, but it is the first time any of the three major news networks have had a news program with two or more anchors who are people of color.
“It’s overdue, frankly,” Radford said. “I can’t say I feel shock and awe by it — I look like America’s daughter right now. But it’s also time we celebrate these moments and we recognize why it’s taken so long to get here and create more opportunities for quality journalists coming after us.”
Radford did admit to excitement, however, and some “nerves” about anchoring what will be News Now’s initial afternoon block, which could stretch from a scheduled two hours of live news to four in the event of breaking events. She’s been a reporter and TV correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC since joining the network in 2015, and before that for Al Jazeera America and ABC News Now, where she was also an anchor on that streaming news service. Now cohosting with Gilchrist, she hopes that such diversity being represented in media will only multiply and create opportunities for more underrepresented groups.
“There was a time when I was younger I would have never thought they’d put me beside someone else who was also brown,” she said. “You just never saw it.”
And she’s hoping to bring some of herself to the News Now time slot, which she has been guest anchoring at times in recent weeks, as well as a new level of “transparency” into the news process.
“In this time where people are distrustful of the news, transparency is important…and giving that behind-the-scenes look ultimately leads to engagement,” Radford said. “It’s about serving the audience. We’re long past the days of serving these superstar anchors — it’s all about the audience and their needs.”
Given the size of its audience in roughly two years since launch, News Now indeed seems to be serving a need. The streaming channel has more than 22 million unique viewers a month, or close to 750,000 people a day, who stream more than 30 million hours of news each month. The average watch time is about an hour per person each time they watch, according to NBC, which added that viewership is up more than 500 percent compared to a year ago.
“The growth has been simply explosive,” said Janelle Rodriguez, senior vice president of News Now, along with “Nightly News” and breaking news specials. “It’s past our expectations and projections. We knew there would be a lot of growth from zero, but this type pf growth we didn’t expect.”
With such a rate of growth, Rodriguez said News Now has “been adding shows as quickly as we can.” She intends to have the entire channel be made up of live original anchored news shows and programming and said the initial timeline for such a rollout has been accelerated.
As for bringing on Radford as a permanent anchor, although she will also continue to report in and out of the field, Rodriguez called it “a no brainer.” Not only did she say both Radford and Gilchrist are “great reporters” with chemistry, but “they bring something fresh and unique” to TV news.
Rodriguez brought up a recent sit-down interview Radford did with a white supremacist, noting she “didn’t flinch” while getting him to express his racist ideology. “It was one of the most compelling interviews I’ve seen.”