Courtesy of Peacock
Wearing a dark gray hoodie and framed by neon lights in a garage, NBC News’ Gadi Schwartz is forgoing the traditional suit and anchor’s desk as he explains to viewers the growing conversation around climate change, as exemplified by California’s shrinking Salton Sea. The graphics are snappy, the aerial footage is grand, and the explanation is conversational — that is to say, very millennial-friendly.
This is “The Overview,” Peacock’s new younger-skewing news show that will debut on NBCUniversal’s streaming service on Jan. 16, as Variety has exclusively learned. Three episodes will premiere on the service at launch, followed by weekly Saturday episodes.
Schwartz, an NBC News and MSNBC correspondent who has covered the 2020 election, immigration issues along the U.S.-Mexico border and the Olympics, leads something of a journalistic double life. He speaks both to the older demographics who watch traditional linear broadcast and cable news as well as the digital-first Gen Zs who watch Schwartz co-host NBC News’ “Stay Tuned” on Snapchat.
“Throughout [my career], I’ve been struggling to find my own voice,” says Schwartz. “Coming up, I started in local news, and very quickly realized that people my age don’t watch local news. So I was speaking to this audience that didn’t really reflect my peers. And that’s always bothered me throughout this entire career.”
Close friends in the news industry told him that going digital was akin to “committing career suicide.” But his Snapchat show, co-hosted with Savannah Sellers, has surpassed the 10 million subscriber mark, 75% of whom are under the age of 25. Producing for the platform meant understanding that having “some guy yelling the news at you and telling you panic” wasn’t as effective as taking a conversational approach, he says.
“I hate being talked at, I always have,” says Schwartz of the “one-way street” that traditional news programming typically offers. “What we’ve seen with mobile and with social and with the digital world is that that one-way street doesn’t work for people that are used to engaging directly with the characters that they’re seeing reflected on the screen.”
Schwartz is applying some of those lessons to Peacock’s “The Overview,” a project that he has been nurturing since the early days of “Stay Tuned.” He wants to create a space where his viewers can pensively “take a step back from the day to day stuff, and ponder the bigger questions that we’re facing.”
After climate change, successive episodes will tackle topics such as the future of elections and the significance of nostalgia in unpredictable times. Each program centers on a different “paradigm shift” — a phrase Schwartz is fond of using — to ascertain what society’s future holds. In a future episode, his team is looking at parsing the nuances in the movement to defund the police.
“We have the right saying we need police for law and order, and they need more funding. Sure. That may be true in some circumstances,” he says. “And then you have former President Barack Obama saying, ‘You know what? The second you say, ‘Defund the police,’ you lose a lot of people.’ Sure, that can be true at the exact same time. And in addition to that, you’ve got AOC saying, ‘Hey, if you don’t call for radical change, no one’s going to take you seriously, and if they’re not uncomfortable, nothing’s going to change.’ That is also true. All of those three things are true at the same time. They seem contradictory. But when you take a moment to look at the totality, you realize how things are a lot more complicated than they appear on Twitter. And maybe we should think about this instead of constantly sounding this call to arms.”
“The Overview,” which will be available for free to those who sign up for Peacock, joins the streamer’s other news programming, such as NBC News NOW.
Jen Brown, senior vice president of topical programming and development for Peacock, hopes to “drive peer-to-peer conversations through Gadi’s thoughtful reporting on issues important to this generation of streaming news consumers.”
“People want nuance, and people are able to understand that two things can be true at the same time,” says Schwartz. “And you can critically think — just because one person says one thing that doesn’t discount what everybody else is saying. It’s just a matter of creating a space where there’s a little bit more room than, you know, 140 characters… to have those conversations.”
Watch the trailer for Peacock’s “The Overview” below:
Variety's Elaine Low contributed to this post.