Amidst the ongoing debate regarding the future of the American news industry, the United Kingdom is making its presence known.
Katty Kay, an experienced BBC news anchor, is preparing to launch a new in-depth interview program that will temporarily shift her focus from covering U.S. politics to conducting long-form conversations with notable personalities. In the debut season of “Influential with Katty Kay,” she will engage in extended discussions with individuals like actor Wendell Pierce, dancer Misty Copeland, and author Ken Follett, among others. The show aims to delve into not only what makes these individuals famous but also their personal interests.
In contrast to the confrontational nature of political and news interviews, Kay’s approach is intended to be candid, personal, and free from the constraints of talking points or promotional agendas. The program is set to premiere on November 16, with episodes airing weekly on the BBC News channel, BBC.com, and YouTube. Additionally, an audio version will be available on major podcast platforms and BBC iPlayer in the UK, and extended versions will be accessible on BBC Select in North America in the coming year.
While the BBC is considered a public service in the UK, many of its international efforts are commercial ventures. Kay’s new show is just one of several initiatives aimed at attracting North American viewers, especially those in the U.S. and Canada. The BBC is also developing projects related to the 2024 U.S. election, climate, travel, culture, and history.
In recent years, the U.S. television news industry has leaned into partisan, opinion-driven programming, but there are signs that this model has limitations. According to Pew Research Center, the proportion of Americans closely following the news has declined from 51% in 2016 to 38% in 2022. Some advertisers have become cautious about news shows that rely heavily on opinion and confrontation, as it can exacerbate polarization among viewers.
Several major news networks have experimented with new formats to address these challenges. CNN’s “The Whole Story” offers documentary-style deep dives into single topics, MSNBC has expanded the role of anchor Jen Psaki for long interviews, and even Fox News has diversified its content beyond traditional programming.
Katty Kay, who is accustomed to brief, intense interviews, is excited about the opportunity to spend more time with her interview subjects and build deeper relationships with them. She plans to continue her political coverage but sees “Influential” as a way to explore different interests and provide viewers with a more well-rounded perspective.
While a second season has not been confirmed, Kay has her eye on potential future guests, including designer Vera Wang, actor Julie Andrews, and musician Ringo Starr. She believes that audiences desire a mix of serious content and lighter, more enjoyable material.