CBS held its annual upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday, and it was notable for being the first in over two decades without former CEO Leslie Moonves. Instead, besides sales president JoAnn Ross, it was CBS chief creative officer David Nevins who opened the show, along with CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl and Thom Sherman, senior executive vice president, programming, CBS Entertainment.
Mentioned (to audience applause) but not on stage was acting CEO Joe Ianniello, whom Nevins touted as having “steadied the ship and guided it on a course.” Also on stage were late night hosts Stephen Colbert and James Corden, who made the requisite digs about CBS (Corden still can’t quite believe that anyone watches “Blue Bloods”). And new CBS News president Susan Zirinsky introduced her new anchor lineups: CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell, who takes over in the fall, and the “CBS This Morning” combo of Gayle King, Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil, who start on Monday.
“Now we are running into the future,” Zirinsky said. “We have the right people in the right places. The entire news organization feels energized.”
Here are a few more takeaways from the CBS upfront presentation:
Sports analogies are one way to reference the scandal that led to your CEO’s departure: CBS opened its upfront with a parody of its NFL pre-game show (which was actually a common trend this week at several presentations), hosted by announcers Jim Nantz and Tony Romo. Without mentioning Moonves by name, Nantz referred to “some changes at the top” in referencing acting Ianniello. In keeping the sports analogy going, Nantz called the exec “downright Belichickian” — as in dominant New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Meanwhile, CBS’ “head of the offense,” Kahl, happens to hail from the same hometown as Romo: Burlington, Wis.
CBS saved the Moonves reference for Colbert: While everyone else hinted at the change of command, Colbert was the only person on stage to actually mention the name of CBS’ former CEO, who was forced out last year after allegations of past sexual misconduct. Colbert mentioned that CBS passed along a massive document detailing how well CBS performed this past year — but he decided to read Attorney General Bill Barr’s four-page memo instead. (No explanation of Barr’s Mueller report summary necessary.) “Les Moonves was totally exonerated!” he quipped. “I did not see that coming.”
Kelly Kahl has a ratings crystal ball: The exec isn’t just predicting another No. 1 season next year, he’s predicting CBS will end at No. 1 for the season after that as well. That’s because the Eye network will program the Super Bowl again in 2021, so it’s actually a pretty solid bet. Yes, that’s in total viewers, but Kahl and CBS argue that as young adult ratings continue to dramatically erode, attracting a big tent is even more critical. “Try finding demos at scale without broad reach,” he said, adding that CBS has been No. 1 or No. 2 among both adults 18-49 and 25-54 over the past decade.
“We serve a broad audience from all 50 states,” he said. “We cultivate and appreciate that audience coast to coast.”
Of course, Colbert has a theory on why CBS has done well over the past decade: “There are a lot of old people who don’t realize the TV in the basement has been on for over a decade,” he said. “No one tell them please!”
CBS is pushing its diversity efforts hard: After years of being knocked for a lack of representation on camera, the network made a point to lay out its initiatives to advertisers, starting with Ross stressing that the network is striving to “portray and empower women and people of color. We’re pushing for fairness and inclusion both in our programming and our business and our new shows really reflect that.” Later, “The Neighborhood” star Cedric the Entertainer also made sure to point out how his show strives to put “diversity and inclusion at the forefront.”
“The Big Bang Theory” cast is getting emotional over their show’s end: After a sizzle reel featuring highlights from the sitcom’s lengthy run, the cast and executive producer Chuck Lorre hit the stage — and struggled to hide their emotion. Lorre reminded the audience that “Big Bang” almost didn’t happen after a disappointing first pass.
“Thirteen years ago we made a pilot, and around this time 13 years ago, [former CBS Entertainment president] Nina Tassler called me and said, ‘It’s not very good. Would you consider doing it again?’ To which I said, ‘Yes, thank you.’ And here we are.
“We realize how lucky we are,” he added to the audience of media buyers. “All you guys, I guess you buy advertising. It’s mostly drugs, I noticed. Regardless, thank you.”
British production company Fulwell 73 is set to produce documentary series “Flying High,” following a season in the lives of the Chelsea soccer club’s women’s team. The fly-on-the-wall series will follow the team through the 2019-20 season and look at the rapid rise in interest in the women’s game. The eight-part series will go behind […]
In today’s roundup, “Preacher” releases the first looks of the final season, and TNT drops the first official trailer for the Ann Curry-hosted show “Chasing the Cure.“ FIRST LOOKS Related CBS Fall 2019-2020 Trailers: Comedies ‘Bob Hearts Abishola’ and ‘Carol’s Second Act,’ Drama ‘All Rise’ (Watch) Upfronts: What to Expect as War Between Writers and […]
Between HBO’s “True Detective” and Hulu’s upcoming “Catch-22,” producer Richard Brown has proved his mastery of the limited-series TV format. On the latest episode of the Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” he shares how he steered his career from music and film to TV once he saw there was a way to make closed-ended stories anywhere […]
CBS held its annual upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday, and it was notable for being the first in over two decades without former CEO Leslie Moonves. Instead, besides sales president JoAnn Ross, it was CBS chief creative officer David Nevins who opened the show, along with CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl and Thom […]
Nearly all of Hulu’s 2,000-plus employees learned about Disney’s deal to take full control of their company on Tuesday the same time the rest of the world did — when the Mouse House and Comcast announced details of their agreement around 9 a.m. ET. Shortly after the official announcement, Hulu CEO Randy Freer sent an […]
CBS has released trailers for the five new shows joining its 2019-2020 schedule. On the drama side, the Eye is adding “All Rise” and “Evil,” while on the comedy front Chuck Lorre’s “Bob Hearts Abishola,” “The Unicorn,” and “Carol’s Second Act” will all join the lineup. Related CBS Fall 2019-2020 Trailers: Comedies ‘Bob Hearts Abishola’ […]
The phrase “Welcome the f— back” marks the billboards and posters for the return of “Deadwood,” but that sentiment doesn’t just apply to the audience. Returning to the town of Deadwood was a homecoming of sorts for the cast and crew of the HBO show, who shared that stepping back into the meticulously recreated late-1800s […]