Themes from ‘World News’

“World News” Current Theme

The new World News with Diane Sawyer theme is a composition by major Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer and his co-composer Steve Mazzaro. They had previously worked together on the score for the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises”. This theme is a total departure from the theme that ABC’s evening newscast had been using in some form or another since the late seventies. Although Zimmer has adapted his style for news music, the World News theme still sounds like a classic Hans Zimmer theme. He relies heavily on thumping, pulsating strings that evoke a sense of urgency, energy and determination. In musical terms it is called ostinato and in film scores it is often used to propel a scene forward which lacks dynamic visual action.

The result is a theme that sounds decidedly cinematic. It continues a trend of movie composers doing news themes that was started by NBC which commissioned John Williams in 1985 to compose The Mission. On another Diane Sawyer program, ABC’s Primetime Live, movie composer Bill Conti composed the theme music. The theme debuted along with new graphics and a slightly refreshed set.

Hans Zimmer - World News theme

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“World News Webcast” Theme

The webcast was launched in 2006 as part of a larger effort by ABC News to provide more frequent newscasts. When Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff started anchoring, they anchored 3 live broadcasts for 3 different timezones. And in the afternoon at 3 p.m. EST, one of them also did the daily webcast. In the beginning it was called World News Now, but the name was changed to avoid confusion with the ABC’s overnight newscast. When Charlie Gibson took over as anchor, he continued the webcast but only appeared on it a couple of times a week. When Diane Sawyer took over World News in 2009, the webcast was cancelled.

Score Productions - World News Webcast

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“World News” 2000 – 2012 theme

This is the current version of the World News theme by Edd Kalehoff that was used in a period during which the broadcast underwent significant changes. Longtime anchor Peter Jennings died and one of his replacements, Bob Woodruff, was severely injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Eventually the other replacement for Jennings, Elizabeth Vargas, who was in effect sole anchor as Woodruff was out of the running, was replaced by Charles Gibson. He retired after three years as anchor of the program and was succeeded by Diane Sawyer. This theme is fifteen seconds shorter than the previous versions of the theme. This is because in 2000 ABC wanted a slightly different open. Kalehoff then compressed the front part giving it a more urgent sound.

Edd Kalehoff - World News theme

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“World News Tonight” 2000 Open (Unused)

This theme was supposed to debut when World News Tonight premiered its new graphics in 2000. It didn’t. While Peter Jennings, then-executive producer Paul Slavin, and others had cleared it, Senior Management had not. And that was a problem. At the very last minute, they decided that the show already had altered its appearance enough and that it might alienate viewers if it also changed it’s long established theme. That’s very unfortunate because it is a good theme. It’s composed by the people at VideoHelper. The story, however, continues. Good Morning America later adopted this as their opening theme.

VideoHelper - World News Tonight theme (unused)

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“World News Tonight” 1998 – 2000 Theme

This theme was used on ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings until September 29, 2000 when they got brand new graphics. The theme was actually used on the weekend editions of World News Tonight until well into 2001 when that program got a graphics update as well. The music is essentially the same as the other versions with the exception that an extra “ta-dum” was added at the end. The primary difference is that this theme sounds louder. This is because the string instruments seem to have largely been replaced with more brass.

Edd Kalehoff - World News Tonight theme

Here is the headline cue which is slightly different than the ’89 version. Updates of the World News Tonight theme have, since 1998, been composed by New York-based composer Edd Kalehoff.

Edd Kalehoff - World News Tonight headlines

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“World News Tonight” 1996 – 1998 Theme

For the first time since 1978, ABC News used a different theme for its evening flagship broadcast, World News Tonight. It was not entirely new because this theme is certainly based on the previous theme. It was used for a short period of time in which NBC Nightly News overtook ABC in the ratings. In 1998 they brought back a version of their original theme, but have in later years attempted twice (2000, 2001) to replace the original theme with something different. This short-lived theme was brought back for the coverage of the political conventions of 2000.

Edd Kalehoff - World News Tonight open

Edd Kalehoff - World News Tonight close

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“World News Tonight” 1989 – 1996 Theme

In 1989 the old theme was in dire need of an update. This is how that update sounded. Most viewers will have noticed that the headlines at the beginning of the broadcast have gotten much longer in recent years. The full opening sequence to the evening newscasts usually lasts at least 40 seconds today, whereas just a decade ago it lasted 20 seconds or so.

Score Productions - World News Tonight theme

Score Productions - World News Tonight headline cue

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“World News Tonight” 1981 – 1989 Theme

The 1978 theme music package is the first to contain the now famous ABC News signature. In May of 1977 Roone Arledge took over control of ABC News, at the time the perennial and distant third in the ratings, and created such programs as World News Tonight, 20/20, Nightline and later This Week with David Brinkley and PrimeTime Live. World News Tonight was the first evening news program to use real theme music. This was Arledge’s doing. The first five years of WNT featured an anchor trio. Frank Reynolds (father of former ABC correspondent, Dean) was the lead anchor and based in Washington, DC Max Robinson, the first black network anchor, in Chicago anchored other national news. Finally, Peter Jennings in London anchored international news. With a year of its debut, the program made a remarkable leap in ratings and fortune when it passed NBC Nightly News with John Chancellor in the Nielsens. When Frank Reynolds died in 1983 of cancer, the program was relaunched with one anchor. After Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Roger Mudd and Ted Koppel passed on the job, it was given to Peter Jennings. This theme, by Bob Israel of Score Productions, is the orchestral version on which the current is based.

Score Productions - World News Tonight theme

Here’s the version of the theme that was used for years on ABC News Radio.

Score Productions - ABC News Radio theme

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“World News Tonight” 1978 – 1981 Theme

This is the teletype theme that was used at ABC News for various programs: Nightline, 20/20 and most famously, World News Tonight. In 1981 World News Tonight stopped using this theme as its main theme, but ABC used it until well in the 1990′s for News Briefs, the 30, 60 or 90-second newscasts that would air during entertainment programs. News briefs have now mostly dissapeared from the network with the exception of one edition. A 30-second News Brief is still produced each day a few minutes before 3 pm EST, though not all stations carry it. However it’s mostly a promo for World News. In this day and age, news is rapidly available on the internet and there really isn’t much need for short news summaries anymore.

Score Productions - World News Tonight theme

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“ABC News” 1975 – 1976 Theme

ABC first started a newscast in the fall of 1953. Its anchor was John Charles Daly and the broadcast lasted only 15 minutes, as was customary at the time. After many different anchors and other stunts (such as naming a young unknown man from Canada named Peter Jennings as anchor from 1965 – 1967), ratings still weren’t great. From 1970 to 1975 Harry Reasoner and Howard K. Smith were at the helm of ABC News. The broadcast had no theme music, having a cold open and quiet close. In 1975 Smith was assigned a commentary role and Reasoner anchored solo. The broadcast was renamed “ABC News with Harry Reasoner”. During this time, they used this theme, which is part of the KPM production music library and can be found on CD #433 but was originally found on vinyl 1138. The name of the piece is ‘Gathering Crowds’ and was also used on Fox’s This Week in Baseball. On the air the theme sounded quite differently due to heavy editing, hence below you can listen to the original piece and how it was used on air. This theme was dropped in 1976 when Barbara Walters was named co-anchor of the renamed “ABC Evening News”.

ABC News Open 1976

KPM Music - Gathering Crowds

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“Peter Jennings with the News” Promo

Peter Jennings had two stints anchoring ABC’s flagship newscast. In the 1960′s ABC News was a distant third in the ratings, so the took a leap of faith and selected the young Canadian Jennings to compete with Walter Cronkite and the team of David Brinkley and Chet Huntley. But the public did not accept him. Too inexperienced and too unfamaliar with American culture. After just a few years, Jennings quit and became ABC’s foreign correspondent. Here’s a promo for Jennings’ newscast. You might hear a piece of theme music in the background. That is the World News Now theme, which replayed this ad a few years ago.

Peter Jennings with the News promo

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