Search Results for ‘NBC’

“Stay Tuned” Current Theme

Stay Tuned is NBC News’ twice-a-day show on Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram. The theme was composed by The Perch, a new L.A. based boutique studio. Lead composer Matthew Kajcienski explained to us that it took quite a different approach when compared to writing for network or cable news shows. Because it airs on a social media platform, the audience will likely be watching the show on a smartphone, which means reduced audio quality. “From a sonic perspective, we had to keep in mind how certain orchestration, musical range, and instrumental sonorities perform when listening on such devices, ” according to Kajcienski.

Form was also a rather big departure from most other news shows. Stay Tuned is an incredibly condensed newscast, lasting only about two minutes. The theme package consists of four versions of the theme that convey different moods for different stories and an extensive set of short, transitional tracks (“the glue”). “With such a condensed broadcast format, quick transitions, and abrupt advertising breaks (especially), the theme had to be extremely flexible in how it could be edited together, yet with so many musical components, blend together seamlessly as not to feel like the music is chopped up into little pieces,” explains Kajcienski.

The Perch – Stay Tuned theme

“Decision 2016” Theme

For the 2016 election, composer Michael Karp revised his legendary NBC election theme that has been on the air since 2004. It includes an entirely new thematic section, a new vamp section and other minor updates. In addition to MSNBC and CNBC, NBC also uses it for various election events such as “The Commander-in-Chief Forum”.

Michael Karp – NBC Decision 2016 theme

“Today” 2016 Election Theme

During the 2016 election, Today continues to use its own election theme. This theme is not used by any other NBC News program. It’s composed by Adam Gubman for Non-Stop Music. The new music builds on the music that Today used since 2010 to introduce their election coverage.

WCPM Custom – Today election theme

“Nightline” 2014 – 2018 Theme

For the first time in about a decade, Nightline changed its theme. The new music, like the old, is composed by VideoHelper. During this era, Nightline moved to a later time slot. Jimmy Kimmel’s show brought in a younger audience and thus more profits, so Nightline now airs an hour later. However, ratings are still pretty good. The show frequently beats comedy shows on NBC and CBS.

VideoHelper – Nightline theme

“Today” Current Open

Just shy of 30 years after its introduction, the Today Show replaced its iconic opener composed by John Williams. The new theme, which has a more modern feel but remains orchestral in nature, is by the custom music division of Warner/Chappell Production Music. NBC attempted twice before — in 1994 and 2004 — to replace the Today’s opening fanfare. Those times it quickly returned. This time around, the new music had a much better reception.

WCPM Custom’s music was gradually introduced to viewers. It’s essentially a variation of the music that Today had already been using for elections and other special broadcasts. Meanwhile, Williams’ music was relegated to just the 7 a.m. open. Bumpers, promos and opens for the other three hours, had been using different music for quite some time. This particular mix was used until 2015, after which point they started using a slightly remixed version.

WCPM Custom – Today open

“World News Tonight” 2012 – 2020 Theme

This World News Tonight theme is a composition by major Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer and his co-composer at Remote Control Productions 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 Tonight 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 Primetime Live movie composer Bill Conti composed the theme music. The theme debuted along with new graphics and a slightly refreshed set. ABC kept the theme when David Muir became anchor of the broadcast, though the open has been shortened.

Remote Control Productions – World News Tonight open
Remote Control Productions – World News Tonight close

“Rock Center” 2012 – 2013 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 didn’t like it as much. It was cancelled in 2013. 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

“ABC Olympics” 2012 Theme

For the two decades after the 1964 Winter Games, ABC made the Olympics a staple of their network and invented the way it is still televised today. The torch has since been passed to NBC which adopted many of the stylistic elements ABC pioneered, including the theme music. Bugler’s Dream by Leo Arnaud is synonymous with the Olympic Games because it has been used since the 1960’s by the network that has the broadcasting rights. For their coverage of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, ABC turned to DreamArtists Music to capture the Olympic spirit. Given their background as concert orchestral composers, this was an assignment that played to their strengths. DreamArtists scored an Olympic theme package with an orchestra consisting of a massive brass section. There was, in fact, enough brass to fill 4 concert orchestras. Remarkably the theme was composed in only 24 hours. The result is a theme that is edgy and driving, with more percussion than Olympic themes at the other networks. The music reflects the truly grand scale of this world event.

DreamArtists Music – ABC Olympics theme

“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

“CBS Evening News” 1987 – 1991, 2011 – 2016 Theme

This was the first orchestral theme for the CBS Evening News. Before this theme was adopted in 1987, CBS News had a policy, imposed by CBS TV President Frank Stanton, that no music could be used. This policy dated back to the old days of TV news when many newscasts consisted of syndicated pictures with cheap production music. To prove CBS supplied its own footage, they decided not to add any music. Besides, their music library at the time consisted of music used for those old radio soaps. It was not appropriate for news. For a few years, they had a ticker sound as open/bumper/close, but from 1984 to 1987 they had no music at all in the open and the close! After a few years of seeing their ratings decline, while John Williams’ NBC News theme was popular with the viewing public, the executives at CBS decided to finally reverse their policy and commissioned John Trivers, Elizabeth Myers, and Alan James Pasqua to compose the theme. The music was recorded at the Fox sound stage and took 6 hours to perform.

This theme was dropped in 1991, but only temporarily as it later turned out. When Scott Pelley took over as anchor of the CBS Evening News in 2011, executives wanted “to reach back into the DNA of CBS News”. They are using the original recordings, though they have been remastered slightly.

Trivers/Myers Music – CBS Evening News close

In the late ’80s they used different openings, but here you can find the one they used quite often. The opening that they have been using since 2011 is a bit different. It’s actually a remixed version of the last part of the long credit close above.

Trivers/Myers Music – CBS Evening News open (2011 version)
Trivers/Myers Music – CBS Evening News open (1987 version)
Trivers/Myers Music – CBS Evening News headlines

“Today” 2011 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

“Today” 2010 – 2015 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

“Decision 2010/2012/2014/2016” 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 theme


Network News Music is dedicated to preserving news themes and promoting a greater level of appreciation and understanding of the art of news theme music. This website features news theme music from the broadcast networks, much of which has never been heard in its entirety. In an effort to highlight the wonderful qualities of the music and its composers, you can listen to the music in the way it was not intended to be heard: without voice-overs or fade outs to commercial.

Most people don’t consciously listen to the theme music that newscasts use. But it does register on an unconscious level. Without a viewer realizing it, the theme music communicates a lot about the newscast that it introduces. Compositions that make heavy use of synthesizers tend to remind us of tabloidy and sensational news, while we associate big orchestras and a classical sound with serious and substantive journalism. So even though the average viewer might let theme music play by unnoticed, network news executives spend a lot of time and money on getting it ‘just right’.

Why I started Network News Music

The reason that I started Network News Music on January 27, 2002 was simple. I wanted to showcase the most memorable news theme music of the past and present. Having grown up watching a lot of news with my parents, I did notice the music. It was always very easy to hum along to, yet sounded powerful, authoritative and classy. It was too bad that a lot of news music is forgotten after it leaves the air or – worse – original reels get destroyed.

What I noticed when I built the site was that a lot of people also appreciated news music. All the e-mails I get each week suggest that there are quite a few viewers out there who develop an emotional connection with the music. Unexpected, but perhaps not strange. Music conveys emotion really well and the news – especially big events – is usually an emotional ordeal. The news is often about life and death, winning and losing. So the music they heard for so many years on television brings back a certain feeling; something that reminds them of a time that has passed.

Why do newscasts need a theme?

Over time I have had the opportunity to speak with composers and people in charge of selecting music for TV newscasts. I found it fascinating to learn how and why it is used. The primary reason: brand recognition. You know you’re watching ABC News when you hear the four-note signature that used to open every single one of their programs. But it’s also used to grab the attention of viewers and tell them something important is on, hence NBC Nightly News’ opening brass horns, which will command attention no matter what you’re doing. And finally, theme music is a tone-setter

Over the years, the style of news music has changed since the 70’s, when network newscast started using custom music. For one thing, cues have gotten shorter and shorter. Due to the networks’ focus on the younger demographics with their notoriously short attention spans, long opens and closes are a thing of the past. Yet while those cues are getting shorter, we are hearing more and more music. Lots of bumpers, promos and segment opens are now accompanied by music. When John Williams composed the theme music for NBC News in 1985, it consisted of a mere 19 cues. When James Horner composed the theme for CBS News in 2006, it consisted of hundreds of cues. If anything, it illustrates how the times have changed.

While news music has followed some of the trends of contemporary music, network news has been able to resist the influence from local and cable news to sound tabloidy, overly urgent or just generic. Network news themes still embody a certain quality and classiness.

A focus on quality

Achieving that quality is possible because networks still have relatively big budgets for their theme music. Granted, due to increased competition those budgets aren’t what they used to be. But the budgets leave room, for example, for the use of real instruments (or entire orchestras) as opposed to just synthesizers with a few live instruments (as is customary for local news themes).

Great compositions, however, require more than money; they require talented composers. And the best are selected by holding auditions before commissioning a theme. So the composers featured on this website are at the top of their field. These composers work hard to compose a great theme because they know that on a network, their theme is highly visible—potentially the entire nation gets to listen to their music. So composing a network theme is a prestigious gig.

It’s for these reasons that network news themes are often sophisticated compositions which can stand the test of time. In fact, I believe some to be absolute masterpieces! And, as such, they and their composers are deserving of a little bit of the limelight. Network News Music is a one of its kind website that gets about 200 visitors a day and over the years I have helped several reporters and journalists with information and analysis for pieces on news theme music. Thereby I hope to give the music and its composers part of the limelight they deserve.


“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