Themes from ‘Score Productions’

“20/20” 1992 – 1998 Theme


“From ABC News around the world and into your home, the stories that touch your life. With Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters, this is 20/20.” That’s how every edition of 20/20 in the 90’s started. For this version of the 20/20 theme, all whooshes and pows known to man were included. Network news, generally speaking, has gone easy on sound effects but cable news certainly has has not. Almost all graphics and transitions are accompanied by a woosh or other sound effect. That’s what gives it the cable news feel. Why do they do it? It grabs your attention. Cable news channels feel it makes them look and sound more urgent and exciting — like something big is going on — which keeps viewers tuned in.

Score Productions – 20/20 theme

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“ABC News Special Report” 1991 – 2013 Theme


“This is an ABC News Special Report.” Whenever breaking news warranted an interruption of regularly scheduled programming, this theme was used. While it is solemn and conveys both importance and urgency, it does not scream hype and sensationalism. It thereby sets the right tone for the coverage that was lead by anchors such as Peter Jennings, Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer. Originally this theme was composed for ABC’s coverage of the Gulf War in 1991.

Score Productions – Special Report theme
Score Productions – Special Report theme (Patriotic)


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“World News Tonight” 1990 – 1996 Theme


In 1990 the old theme was starting to sound dated, hence Score Productions produced an updated recording. The theme debuted without any new graphics and was probably not noticed by the average viewer. A bigger change to the opening sequence came a few years later. Up until 1994 World News Tonight started with the theme music playing while a voice over introduced the anchor. But producers realized that a more effective way to get people to watch until the end is to tease the top stories at the top of the broadcast. So that is what they started doing. At first it lasted only a few seconds with the anchor just quickly mentioning the top stories. Later it was expanded and accompanied by the music below. These days, the opening tease can last almost two full minutes.

Score Productions – World News Tonight theme

Score Productions – World News Tonight headline bed


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“Nightline” 1986 – 1989 Headlines


Nightline started out as a series of special reports to update viewers late at night on the Iranian hostage crisis. Those special reports were called “America Held Hostage” and anchored by Frank Reynolds, lead anchor of World News Tonight. But he did not like doing double duty and Ted Koppel started substituting regularly. When the program officially debuted as Nightline, Ted Koppel was officially the anchor. The program was known for covering just one topic per broadcast, which allowed it to go in depth like no other news program on network television. Nightline used the World News Tonight theme for its first few years. But in the ’80s this pulsing music was played while Ted Koppel told us what’s coming up on the broadcast. It might have been intended to be a main theme for Nightline because after about a minute the music evolves into something that sounds like a main theme.

Score Productions – Nightline theme


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“Business Brief” 1984 – 1986 Theme


Business Brief was an ABC News Brief featuring only financial news anchored by ABC’s chief economics correspondent, Dan Cordtz. News Briefs were the 30, 60 or 90-second newscasts that would air during entertainment programs. They have now mostly disappeared 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 Tonight. In this day and age, news is rapidly available on the internet and there really isn’t much need for short news summaries anymore. Business Brief aired each weekday at 8:58 pm.

Score Productions – Business Brief theme


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“ABC News Closeup” 1982 – 1987 Theme


This is the theme used for a few years on the long running ABC News documentary series titled Closeup. The first documentary that ran under the Closeup moniker aired in 1973. This theme was used from 1982 until 1987.

Score Productions – Closeup theme


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“CBS News Nightwatch” 1982 – 1988 Theme


CBS News Nightwatch was an overnight newscast. It debuted in October of 1982 and was replaced with Up to the Minute in 1992. For most of its existence, Charlie Rose anchored the program. During his tenure, the program developed from being mostly a straightforward newscast to essentially a two-hour interview show. This theme was composed by Score Productions’ Walt Levinsky, who also did other themes for CBS at the time such as the CBS Evening News, NFL Football and College Basketball coverage. It was replaced in 1988 by a theme from Edd Kalehoff.

Score Productions – CBS News Nightwatch theme


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“World News This Morning” Theme


World News This Morning has had a variety of anchors since its debut in 1982, including Steve Bell, Anderson Cooper and Paula Zahn. This theme was used on the first broadcast and on the last broadcast of World News This Morning. However, for about a year they used the World News Now theme. In 1992, after World News Now debuted, production of the two newscasts was merged. World News This Morning was anchored by the same people in the same laid back style. However, the network wanted to differentiate the two. So World News This Morning started using their old theme again and anchors adressed their audience in a more formal way. Without a doubt the theme is a wonderful variation on the classic ABC News theme. In 2006 it was replaced with America This Morning which uses a different theme.

Score Productions – World News This Morning theme

Here’s a bumper that was used even in the latter days of World News This Morning.

Score Productions – World News This Morning bumper


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“This Week” 1981 – 1996 Theme


In 1981 This Week hit the airwaves as ABC’s answer to NBC’s Meet the Press and as successor to Issues and Answers. Its moderator was David Brinkley who left longtime employer NBC News because he was upset at being forced to anchor one of NBC’s many low rated news magazines. At ABC, Brinkley revitalized Sunday morning public affairs programming by adding a panel, the roundtable. It provided a unique look at the news of the week with educated debate. Furthermore, it made public affairs programming accessible to the average Joe by always doing a setup piece before the interview. Due to this and Brinkley’s talent, the program was very successful. Brinkley stepped down as moderator in 1996 but continued to provide regular commentary until 1997. He died in 2003.

Score Productions – This Week theme


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“Viewpoint” 1981 – 1987 Theme


This program was created in 1981 by Roone Arledge, as were most other ABC News programs of the time period. Viewpoint did not have a regular time slot. It was aired as a series of specials, usually in the place of Nightline and moderated by Ted Koppel. Viewpoint focused on media bias and how issues were covered. There was a live audience present, which was allowed to participate by asking questions to the experts and offering up their own critiques of television news. These two themes were both used for Viewpoint in the ’80s.

Score Productions – Viewpoint theme 1
Score Productions – Viewpoint theme 2


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“20/20” 1979 – 1992 Theme


In June of 1978, Roone Arledge’s first news magazine hit the airwaves. It was called 20/20 and created to compete with 60 Minutes, the show that originated the genre. While Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters may be most closely associated with the early days of the program, they were not the original anchors. Harold Hayes and Robert Hughes anchored the first show. But that first edition was nothing short of a disaster and they were quickly replaced. The show featured Jimmy Carter and Walter Cronkite represented by puppets doing short comical bits. Critics were not kind when writing their reviews. As a result, Downs was asked to take over as anchor. Walters joined him in 1981 as something slightly less than a co-anchor, though she officially became his equal three years later. This reunited a duo that had already anchored together on NBC’s Today from 1964 to 1971.

The first couple of 20/20 shows used an unknown theme without the ABC News emblem. (They reportedly also used the World News Tonight theme during this first season.) In 1979 they started using their own theme, which they would use for many years to come. It is composed by Walt Levinsky for Score Productions.

Score Productions – 20/20 theme


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“World News Tonight” 1979 – 1990 Theme


Legendary ABC News president Roone Arledge wanted orchestral music to open World News Tonight and so in 1980 the evening newscast started to use this theme. It was composed by Score Productions in 1979 and was used on occasion to open various ABC News broadcasts before becoming the main theme for World News Tonight.

Arledge became president of the then low rated ABC News in May of 1977 and would go on to create such programs as World News Tonight, 20/20, Nightline and later This Week with David Brinkley and PrimeTime Live. The first five years of World News Tonight featured an anchor trio. Frank Reynolds was the lead anchor, based in Washington D.C. Max Robinson, the first black network news anchor, anchored from Chicago. And Peter Jennings covered the international news from London. Within a year of its debut, the program made a remarkable leap in ratings when it passed NBC Nightly News with John Chancellor in the ratings. 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.

Score Productions – World News Tonight theme

Here’s the version of the theme that was used on ABC News Radio up until 1995.

Score Productions – ABC News Radio theme


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“World News Tonight” 1978 – 1996 Theme


This is the teletype theme that was for World News Tonight in its early days. In 1980 World News Tonight stopped using this theme as its main theme, but they used it until 1996 as bumper to commercials and for News Briefs. It’s the first electronic news theme on network television. Electronic music became popular in part thanks to Moog Music, which released the first relatively affordable synthesizer in 1970. Before that time, most music was played by live instruments. Edd Kalehoff used the Moog Synthesizer for The Price Is Right theme, which is still on the air today. They also used it for a number of other game show themes from that era such as Password and Concentration. When ABC was looking for something different in 1978, Score Productions offered them a Moog-produced news theme. Though it did not stick around as long as the The Price Is Right theme, it certainly is an incredibly memorable theme.

Score Productions – World News Tonight theme


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