Themes from ‘NBC News’

“Rock Center” Current Theme


This news magazine is named after the location of NBC News headquarters in the GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Center. It’s NBC’s first new news magazine since Now with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric debuted in 1993. Rock Center is more serious than Dateline NBC which primarily focusses on crime. Rock Center also covers more topics whereas Dateline features just one story these days. While critics consider Rock Center a smart show, viewers haven’t shown it much love yet. Since the premiere it has changed time slots multiple times. And in the summer of 2012 the program was given new graphics and theme music. This is the show’s second opening theme. It’s a more dramatic and serious version of the original open.

Gordon Miller - Rock Center theme

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“Today” 2012 – 2013 Headline Bed


On the same day that Good Morning America debuted a new theme, Today debuted a new headline bed. It has more of a driving beat to it than the previous version. Today also debuted new graphics and…a new open. But the new open mostly went unnoticed. In late 2011 John Williams re-recorded the open for Today in digital audio. At the same a new version of the Meet the Press theme was recorded. However, unlike the Meet the Press theme which saw significant changes, the Today open wasn’t changed that much, if at all.

Non-Stop Music - Today headline bed

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“Today” Current Royal Theme


For the wedding of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton in April 2011, the Today Show went all out with their coverage. The show broadcast from just outside Buckingham Palace in London for six hours straight. For the occasion, Today commissioned their go-to composers, Adam Gubman and Non-Stop Music, for a piece of special theme music. In the years after the wedding, the theme was brought back for other major news events from the British royal family.

Non-Stop Music - Today Royal Wedding Open

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“Today” Current Election Open


While all NBC News programs use the same graphics for their election coverage, they don’t all use the same theme music. Today has used its own election theme since 2010. It’s part of a package consisting of various secondary themes by Adam Gubman for Non-Stop Music. This particular cut was also used to open the 60th anniversary special edition of Today. During that broadcast the Empire State Building was lit in the colors of Today and anchor Ann Curry wore a dress with the Today sunburst prominently displayed on it.

Non-Stop Music - Today Election Open

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“Decision 2010/2012” Theme


After using Michael Karp’s election theme for several election cycles, NBC went into a totally different direction in 2010. This election theme is more understated and has a cinematic sound. You might be surprised to learn that the music is done in-house. Gordon Miller is the music director for MSNBC. Along with the election theme, he also composed the music for the news magazine Rock Center.

Gordon Miller - Decision 2010/2012 theme

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“Chris Matthews Show” 2009 – 2013 Theme


In 2009 the Chris Matthews Show received a new theme. It’s written by John Williams and is part of the 2004 update he did of The Mission, his theme for NBC News. This particular cut, which you can hear below in full, was intended as the new theme for NBC Nightly News. In fact, the last 15 seconds are indeed used for Nightly. However the opening fanfare in the front part was not used. When the Chris Matthews Show started using it, it became the first non-NBC News program to use The Mission. As a syndicated program, the Chris Matthews does not air exclusively on NBC affiliates.

John Williams - Chris Matthews Show theme

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“Today” 2006 Promo


Another image campaign for the Today Show by the folks at 615 Music. This one was used to promote Meredith Vieira’s debut as co-anchor of Today in 2006. Customized versions (with partially local lyrics) were done for a number of NBC stations, including those in Atlanta, Miami and San Diego.

615 Music - It's A New Day

Interestingly enough, a version of this campaign was also created with the tagline: “It’s a new hour…of Today”. The decision to add a fourth hour was not yet announced, probably not even made, but they did commission the music to promote it. Ultimately a new promo was composed to promote the fourth hour when it debuted a year after this promo music stopped airing.

615 Music - It's A New Hour

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“Today” 2006 – 2013 Open


In 2006 Today debuted a new open for the first time in more than 20 years. The music was part of John Williams’ 2004 revision of The Mission but for some reason Today opted not to use the new open until significantly later. The new open is 10 seconds longer than the original open. It was extended to cover the full announce, including the last part: “…live from Studio 1A in Rockefeller Plaza.” The new open also has a somewhat mellower sound due to less brass, making it a better fit for a morning program. In late 2011 the open was actually re-recorded in digital audio by Williams and his orchestra, along with the Meet the Press theme. However, unlike the Meet the Press theme, the changes for Today are barely noticeable. (The version below is the 2004 version.)

John Williams - Today open

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“Today” 2005 – 2012 Headline Bed


For many years Today had a cold open in which an anchor quickly teased a few stories. It lasted about 10 or 15 seconds while no music played. But like any other news program, Today wanted to tease more stories at the top to keep viewers tuned in longer. With that change came this headline bed which is composed by the folks at Non-Stop Music. These days the headline segments lasts significantly longer: about a minute.

Non-Stop Music - Today headline bed

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“Dateline NBC” 2005 – 2006 Theme


For the last few years of its classic era, Dateline used a reorchestrated version of its long-running theme. During the period in which this theme was used, Dateline started to transition away from some of the elements that made the program famous. Classic segments such as the Dateline Timeline – where viewers were asked to guess the year in which certain events took place – were discontinued. The huge set in Studio 3B was replaced with a smaller set in a different studio. And content wise, like other news magazines, Dateline focussed more on true crime stories, becoming known for it’s ‘To Catch a Predator’-series. In another significant change, the role of the anchor was reduced, limiting the necessity of a dedicated but expensive anchor. Hence, Stone Phillips’ contract was not renewed in 2007. This theme was only used for about a year.

Michael Karp Music - Dateline theme

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“Today” Current Bumper


This Copland-esque theme – think Hoedown from Rodeo – is part of the 2004 update of The Mission. It was originally intended for a possible Tom Brokaw-anchored news magazine prior to his retirement from Nightly News. The program, however, never came about and so the theme was never used in its entirety. In the late 2000’s it was used occasionally as a bumper for the Today Show, usually for NBC’s Education Nation segments.

John Williams - Untitled Part of The Mission

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“Decision 2004/2006/2008″ Theme


Election themes don’t get much better than this. Michael Karp composed this theme which was used for the 2004, 2006 and 2008 elections. Decision 2004 was the last election anchored by Tom Brokaw who retired days later from NBC Nightly News. He anchored from a huge set built on and around Rockefeller Plaza (which was temporarily renamed Democracy Plaza). MSNBC started using this theme again in 2012 for its election coverage.

Michael Karp Music - Decision 2008 theme

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“Early Today” 2004 – 2013 Theme


In 2004 Early Today received a complete makeover. MSNBC took over production of the show and it shifted focus from financial news to general news. Subsequently Early Today got new graphics, a new theme and a new anchor. In fact, since 2004 anchors changes have been frequent. Natalie Morales, Amy Robach, Contessa Brewer and Kristine Johnson have all anchored the program. The theme is composed by Savage & Laporta. In 2013 Early Today’s look was updated to match the Today Show.

Savage & Laporta - Early Today theme

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“Meet the Press” 2004 – 2011 Theme


This is the very subtly updated part IV of The Mission, used for Meet the Press. As the longest running program on television, Meet the Press often digs into its vast archives in a segment called “Meet the Press Minute”. Usually its a historical clip related to the events of the present day. In 2011 John Williams was again commissioned to do a (small) refresh of The Mission. The changes are again subtle.

John Williams - Meet the Press theme

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“NBC Nightly News” Current Theme


In 2004 after the general election, veteran anchor Tom Brokaw retired from NBC News. The transition had been announced long in advance and so successor Brian Williams was carefully introduced to the viewers. As part of the transition Nightly News updated its classic theme, The Mission, along with the graphics and set. No big changes–all debuting in the days before Brokaw left. The updated version of The Mission was recorded in October of 2004 in Culver City, CA and featured a 100-piece orchestra conducted by composer John Williams. NBC News commissioned an update to the classic theme because they wanted a slightly crisper and cleaner sound. Furthermore, to better preserve the music, the new theme was recorded digitally. The new Mission package also includes three unused themes for future use. The theme you are listening to is the full length main theme of The Mission, used as a close on Nightly News.

John Williams - NBC Nightly News close

The opening sequence to Nightly News was also revamped in 2004, at first returning to what NBC considered the roots of The Mission with a softer headline bed, but quickly abandoning it in favor of the old percussion-heavy cue. In 2007 the headline bed dropped the first three opening notes.

John Williams - NBC Nightly News open

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