Search Results for ‘NBC’

“Dateline NBC” 2005 – 2007 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 in New York was torn down. And content wise, like other news magazines, Dateline focussed more on true crime stories, becoming known for its ‘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 two years.

Michael Karp – Dateline theme

“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 famed 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.

John Williams – NBC Nightly News open

“NBC Nightly News” 2003 Promo

This promo is called “NBC Nightly News Hard & Fast”. It was used to promote a feature report on the next edition of Nightly News. Aside from main themes, networks commission promo material from a composer that they have under contract as a music producer. While promos usually feature the signature of the main theme, they are produced more cheaply: fewer live instruments and more synthesizers. And while main themes can be used for decades, promo music is refreshed every few years.

Man Made Music – NBC Nightly News promo music

“Countdown with Keith Olbermann” (MSNBC) 2003 – 2011 Theme

Countdown started as more or less a regular newscast in the early days of the Iraq War. But it would grow into MSNBC’s signature show. It’s fast pace, irreverent segments and liberal commentary made it a ratings hit. MSNBC used the show as a template to rebuild its entire primetime lineup. Two of its guest hosts, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell, would get their own shows on MSNBC. This theme samples the second movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and thereby makes an allusion to NBC News’ long history. That six-note introduction had been prominently used on the Huntley-Brinkley Report since the 1950’s.

Elegant Too – Countdown with Keith Olbermann (MSNBC) theme

“The News with Brian Williams” (MSNBC) Theme

Brian Williams joined NBC News in 1993 and was quickly groomed to be the next anchor of NBC Nightly News. At first he was named White House correspondent, followed in 1996 (with the launch of MSNBC) by his own hour-long news program called The News. He anchored the program, which later moved to CNBC, until 2004 when John Siegenthaler temporarily took over before the program was cancelled. This theme is what I believe to be the second theme to the program (the first being composed by Shelly Palmer). It is composed by Peter Fish.

Peter Fish – The News with Brian Williams theme

“Dateline NBC” 1994 – 2005 Theme

In 1994 Dateline NBC commissioned Michael Karp to compose a new theme for them. The result is one of the best themes for a news magazine. It started being used around the time that Dateline moved to a new studio. For the first few years the program was broadcast from the set of NBC Nightly News. But when Today moved to their current street side studio, Dateline took over their old studio on the third floor of Rockefeller Center. For most of the time that this theme was used, Stone Phillips and Jane Pauley co-anchored the program. After Pauley retired in 2003, Ann Curry was added as a co-host in 2005.

Michael Karp – Dateline theme
Michael Karp – Dateline bumpers

“Dateline NBC” 1992 – 1994 Theme

Dateline wasn’t NBC’s first news magazine: First Tuesday, Chronolog, First Tuesday (again), NBC Presents a Special Edition, Weekend, Prime Time Sunday, Prime Time Saturday, NBC Magazine with David Brinkley, NBC Magazine, Monitor, First Camera, Summer Sunday, USA, American Almanac, 1986, ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’, Real Life with Jane Pauley and Expose all preceded it. But Dateline was NBC’s first successful news magazine. Yet it came very close to cancellation just after its debut. In 1992 the program featured a report about GM pickup trucks carrying exploding fuel tanks. Dateline’s credibility was nearly destroyed when it was later revealed that the exploding fuel tanks shown in the report exploded only because they were rigged with explosives. Various people involved in the story were fired. Dateline survived and is, of course, still on the air today. This is the original theme used for the show’s first two years.

Michael Karp – Dateline theme

“NBC News at Sunrise” 1985 – 1996 Open

This is another cue from The Mission by John Williams. NBC selected it as the opening for NBC News at Sunrise, which was the network’s early morning newscast that had debuted in 1983 with Connie Chung as anchor. Around 1996 News at Sunrise replaced its open with the Nightly News open. The program left the airwaves in 1999, being replaced with Early Today.

When composing this theme and the other cues for The Mission, Williams talked a lot about it with director Steven Spielberg. That led to a surprise on the day of the recording. Former NBC News executive Tom Wolzien, who had selected Williams to compose a new set of themes for NBC News, explains: “On the morning of the recording session when I got to the Paramount stage, the 90-piece orchestra we’d hired was turning up and Williams was at the podium getting set. He saw me come into the back of the stage, and came running through the orchestra and said something like, ‘Tom, I wonder if it would be OK if a friend sat in the control room with you.’ I said something like ‘sure, John, whomever you want’, and then asked who it was. Williams said: ‘Steven Spielberg’. He stayed through much of the morning session, and I remember sitting with him when we all heard The Mission theme for the first time.”

John Williams – NBC News at Sunrise open

“NBC Nightly News” 1985 – 2004 Theme

In 1985 NBC wanted to do away with the synthesizer sounds forever and so they commissioned a full orchestral news theme package from famous movie-score composer John Williams, who’s credits include Star Wars, Jaws and Jurassic Park. The deal with John Williams to compose The Mission, as the NBC News theme is called, took 2 years to close. Williams was actually quite reluctant to take on this project because he found it so difficult. The reason? It would have to hold up for many plays a day for a long time (though two decades was on nobody’s mind). Up until that point, he considered composing the five signature notes from Close Encounters his most difficult project. He and director Steven Spielberg had gone days back and forth on it. At one point, a frustrated Spielberg called a mathematician to ask how many combinations there would be for just a few notes. When the answer came back at around 35 million — clearly untestable — they went back into the creative process.

Eventually Williams did of course take on the project for NBC News. He was given free reign, only being asked to include opens, bumpers and closes. After a number of meetings with the NBC executive who was in charge of this project, Tom Wolzien, and the executive producers of Nightly News and Today (to get their visions on their programs), he set out to compose the music. NBC did not hear from him again until the day of the recording. After that session he delivered 19 cues to NBC, consisting of 4 closing themes, 4 opens and 11 bumpers. This is The Mission, part I and was used as the close for NBC Nightly News.

John Williams – NBC Nightly News close (The Mission, part I)

A more hard hitting cut of The Mission was chosen as the opening for Nightly News.

John Williams – NBC Nightly News open

Here you can listen to a few rare bumpers from the original package that were used on various NBC News programs, including Nightly News. To record those, two excruciatingly long sessions were needed. Each cue went through many takes before Williams was happy with the result. The first bumper below is actually the 90th take of the session, while the second is take 108.

John Williams – The Mission bumper 7
John Williams – The Mission bumper 10

“NBC News Overnight”

“You hear something that may be music or may be the sound Donald Duck would make if you held his head underwater a while,” that is how Linda Ellerbee, co-anchor of NBC News Overnight, described this theme once. NBC News Overnight premiered on July 5, 1982 with co-anchors Linda Ellerbee and Lloyd Dobyns. After six months, Bill Schechner replaced Dobyns. ‘Overnight’ was a one hour live overnight news show which pioneered the format of serious news mixed with features and irreverence–a format ABC’s World News Now later adopted. Though the program had many loyal fans, it was never a ratings success and cancelled after only seventeen months.

Michael Devon – NBC News Overnight theme

“NBC Nightly News” 1979 – 1985 Open & Close

NBC Nightly News debuted in July of 1970 after Chet Huntley left the Huntley-Brinkley Report. David Brinkley anchored with John Chancellor and Frank McGee as part of an anchor trio that was not as successful as the Huntley-Brinkley pairing. A year later McGee left for Today and Brinkley was relegated to doing commentary. This left John Chancellor as solo anchor of Nightly News. However, he was never able to break Walter Cronkite’s grip on the American public. So Chancellor anchored Nightly News solo until April of 1982 when co-anchors Roger Mudd and Tom Brokaw took over. Brokaw went solo a little more than a year later. This open is a true classic. From 1979 to 1982 it was used as a bumper. Later it was used as the main open.

Joseph Paul Sicurella, Tony Smythe and Bob Christianson – NBC Nightly News open

“NBC Nightly News” 1977 – 1979 Theme

John Williams is not the first famous movie composer to do a news theme for NBC. This funky theme, used during the latter period of the John Chancellor era of Nightly News, is composed by Henry Mancini. He has done incredibly recognizable themes such as The Pink Panther. Aside from his work for Nightly News, Mancini also composed an election theme for NBC and the NBC Mystery Movie theme. While his election theme would stay on for decades, his theme for Nightly News only lasted for a short time.

Henry Mancini – NBC Nightly News theme


“NBC Nightly News” 1972 – 1977 Theme

When Chet Huntley retired, the Huntley-Brinkley Report became NBC Nightly News. While there were various changes to the anchor lineup, John Chancellor was the lead anchor for most of the next decade. Sometimes he shared the anchor desk with David Brinkley, who otherwise mostly did commentary under the title David Brinkley’s Journal. Ultimately Nightly News, dominant in the days of Huntley-Brinkley, was not able to overtake Walter Cronkite in the ratings. During much of this time, this theme was used to close the broadcast. It was definitely used as early as 1972, but may have been introduced in 1970, when Nightly News debuted. Ray Ellis is the composer, who also did the theme for Today at the time.

Ray Ellis – NBC Nightly News theme


“Top Story w/Tom Llamas” Theme

“Top Story w/Tom Llamas” is the primetime news show on the NBC News Now platform. The theme is produced by Current Music, with composers Matthew Sikora and Elizabeth Forde. Current Music, a boutique custom music and licensing house, has created 25 news, sports and talk show theme packages as of September 2021. The founders, Christian Salyer and Maddie Madsen, have over 50 years experience combined in the custom music and licensing space. They started Current Music in 2013.

Current Music – Top Story w/Tom Llamas theme


“The Vote” 2018 Theme

For the 2018 midterm election, NBC went back to the theme that is since 2004 most closely associated with its election coverage. Composer Michael Karp did some additional versions of the election theme for NBC and MSNBC that were used in addition to the 2016 versions. The longevity of the theme is amazing. NBC did, however, replace it’s longtime Decision moniker with new branding: “The Vote: America’s Future”

Michael Karp – The Vote theme