Jessell at Large

Even Dave Thinks Les (Moonves) Is More

Of the Big Four network honchos, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves is the only one who still seems to know how to program to mass audiences, even if it is a dwindling mass, and believes in what he is doing. Broadcasting has no greater or more ardent champion. This TV season, Moonves and CBS were finally rewarded for their single-minded commitment to broadcasting by capturing the 18-49 demo crown.
TVNewsCheck,

After doing his bit for the CBS "pledge drive" at Wednesday's upfront, Dave Letterman returned the Carnegie Hall stage to the emcee with a flourish: "The man who is single-handedly saving network TV --Leslie Moonves"

Maybe he is.

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Of the Big Four network honchos, the CBS CEO is the only one who still seems to know how to program to mass audiences, even if it is a dwindling mass, and believes in what he is doing. Broadcasting has no greater or more ardent champion.

This TV season, Moonves and CBS were finally rewarded for their single-minded commitment to broadcasting, to gathering the largest possible audiences.

Now, they can say they are not only the most watched network, but also the most watched among the 18-to-49 year-olds that advertisers are willing to pay the most to reach. It's hard to believe it's been more than 20 years since CBS held the 18-49 title.

CBS has done it the old fashioned way, gradually building a primetime schedule that flows from show to show, night to night. While its ancient rivals ABC and NBC always seem to be overhauling their schedules, CBS always seems to be merely tweaking its lineup.

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According to Variety, over the past four seasons, CBS has introduced 26 new shows compared to 42 by NBC and 40 by ABC. CBS's total is even one less than that of Fox, which has to fill only two hours a night.

Despite all the hoopla at Carnegie Hall, the presentation was sharply focused on regularly scheduled programming.

CBS programming chief Nina Tassler stressed that, unlike its rivals, CBS wasn't about to disrupt its audiences viewing habits with a lot of "event series" or special entertainment programming. "We don't need place fillers," she said. "We have hit shows."

(This is too bad in a way. I saw an ad for Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella now playing on Broadway, and was reminded that the classic musical had been commissioned by CBS for TV. It first aired in 1957.)

CBS's only concession to fashion was a little time-slot sharing at 10 o'clock on Mondays. Hostages, a new suspense drama, will get the slot in the fall. Intelligence, another new drama about a cyber-detective, takes over in the spring. CBS also decided to hold Mike & Molly until midseason so that its 22 episodes can spin out through May without interruption.

Moonves was also not going to be sucked into using his network's big moment before the advertising industry for a discussion of digital options. "Anyone that spends 20 minutes at the upfront talking about multiplatform doesn't have much to sell, and we do have more to sell," Moonves said.

CBS's disciplined approach to broadcasting carries over to the fundamentals of the medium. Since the dawn of digital, its priority has been to insure that its single main channel has always been of the highest possible technical quality. It has shown little interest in multicasting and mobile DTV -- services of questionable value that can degrade the main signal when jammed into a 6 MHz TV channel.

You'll also note that CBS is now the only one of the Big Four not to have announced a plan for live streaming of its O&Os and affiliates so that they can be received in-market by consumers on smartphones and tablets. ABC, Fox and NBC have opted for the TV everywhere approach, in which they partner with cable operators and receive compensation through a retrans premium.

This not to say that CBS is not interested in live streaming. In fact, it has invested in, and has been experimenting with, Syncbak, a live streaming platform. But if has a cogent live streaming strategy, it isn't sharing it with me or anybody else I have spoken to about it.

Since the launch of TVNewsCheck in 2006, the only time CBS's faith in broadcasting waivered came in 2010 when it failed to step up and retain the rights to the Final Four -- the semi-finals and finals of the NCAA basketball tourney. Instead, it is sharing those rights with Turner. Among other things, TBS will air the championship game in 2016 and each even-numbered year thereafter until the contract expires in 2024.

That deal has gotten worse for broadcasters, by the way. Originally, CBS was supposed to broadcast the semi-final games in addition to the championship games in 2014 and 2015. But a week before the CBS upfront, it was announced that TBS would air the semis in those two years.

CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus called the migration of the two games to cable a "win-win" without explaining how the loss of such attractive programming could possibly be construed as a win for CBS other than in the accounting department.

Then, news broke yesterday that CBS had lost another major sports event -- the U.S. Open tennis tournament. The rights had become too rich for CBS so starting in 2015 you will have to tune to ESPN for the semifinals and finals. With the ratings waning, the loss of the U.S. Open doesn't hurt as much as that of the Final Four. But still, it's been a prestige CBS tradition since 1968.

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Comments (5) -

GetReal Nickname posted over 3 years ago
Moonves has been pretty great, it's true. But CBS to be the network that has raised (or lowered) the bar on violent content. Regardless of what harm it does, it's pretty coarse stuff. All those burned-to-a-crisp bodies on NCIS! And CBS (and Moonves) has the ability to make a better mark on prime time news. 60 Minutes is great, but elsewhere CBS wastes 48 Hours which is just another crime show. I think it's unrealistic to aspire to Tiffanty status. But it would be nice if CBS did something a little altruistic in prime time once in a while.
Insider Nickname posted over 3 years ago
As your name implies, GetReal
Insider Nickname posted over 3 years ago
http://www.chucklorre.com/index-bbt.php?p=416
Myke Nickname posted over 3 years ago
http://www.turnoffyourtv.com/commentary/hiddenagenda/murrow.html Still true today.
FlashFlood Nickname posted over 3 years ago
I'n glad that CBS and Mooves still believe in free OTA Broadcasting. Does the FCC?
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Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 29, 2016
  • 1.
    1.6/6
  • 2.
    1.2/4
  • 3.
    1.2/4
  • 4.
    0.9/3
  • 5.
    0.6/2
  • 6.
    0.3/1
Source: Nielsen

Reviews

  • Rob Owen

    Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.

  • Maureen Ryan

    Pitch has swagger, for good reason. It gets the big things right; the Fox drama about the first female baseball player in the Major Leagues is one of the year’s most assured and exciting debuts. But part of what impresses about the pilot is also the way it confidently strings together so many small but telling details. Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) is the first woman to be called up from the minors to the big leagues, and no show since Friday Night Lights has done a better job of portraying the internal and external pressures that weigh heavily on young athletes asked to do much more than merely succeed on the field. Pitch will likely do a good job of getting viewers to root for it. The hope is that the show won’t be an impressive, short-lived curiosity, but rather a long-term phenomenon.

  • Kevin Fallon

    In a fall TV season that’s already making a splash for championing diverse, distinctive voices in an array of projects that they created, wrote, and starred in, Better Things on FX stands out. The show is created by, written by, and starsPamela Adlon. She plays Sam Fox, the single mother of three daughters modeled after her own reality-show-ready experience raising three girls in Los Angeles following a divorce. Sam is also, like Adlon, a working actress — on shows both raunchy, a la Californication, and animated for children, like her role on Recess. It’s a refreshingly blunt take on single motherhood without sacrificing the warmth of parental love, portraying the dance between selfishness and selflessness that’s at the heart of being a parent — especially one weathering the hormonal fireworks of a household of four women at different ages.

  • David Wiegand

    The fall TV season doesn’t count as much as it used to — we already know that. But no matter how many retreads the broadcast networks throw at viewers in the next few months, this fall will be memorable because of the premiere of Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 6, on FX. The half-hour comedy created by and starring Donald Glover (Community), simply and brilliantly recalibrates our expectations of what a TV comedy is and how black lives are portrayed on the medium.

  • Louisa Ada Seltzer

    The second reboot of the 1980s John Candy movie Uncle Buck, bumped by ABC from midseason, has the same tired jokes you'll find on any second-rate sitcom. Too bad, because Mike Epps is appealing and ABC would be wise to keep him around for future shows, but there’s just not enough to this show to suggest it will last past summer. It also airs against NBC’s America’s Got Talent, summer’s No. 1 program on broadcast, which may make it even harder to find an audience.

  • Neil Genzlinger

    Bryan Cranston brings his Tony Award-winning interpretation of President Lyndon B. Johnson to television in an adaptation of the Robert Schenkkan play All the Way, and it’s still quite a sight to behold, just as it was on Broadway in 2014. Nothing beats witnessing this kind of larger-than-life portrayal onstage, of course. But the television version, presented by HBO, offers plenty of rewards, allowing Cranston to work the close-ups and liberating him from the confines of a theater set. Cranston’s performance is a gem — in his hands, this accidental president comes across as an amazing bundle of contradictions, someone who seems at once too vulgar for the job and just right for it.

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