CBS Focused on Staying ‘Most Watched,’ Says Nevins

Sports personalities Jim Nantz and Tony Romo kicked of the CBS upfront show, the pair starring in a “pre-game” video loaded with football/television double entendres.

“It feels like a Super Bowl,” said Romo.

Nantz mentioned how “new head coach, Joe Ianniello, has already put his stamp on the team” since stepping in for Leslie Moonves.

Related: CBS Reveals Fall Programming

Nantz, Romo, reporter Tracy Wolfson and Jo Ann Ross, president and chief ad revenue officer, then stepped on stage at Carnegie Hall.

“Hello friends, and hello friends with money,” quipped Nantz.

Ross, clad in shoulder pads and a football jersey, spoke next. “It’s been a wild ride since we last met,” she said, for CBS, the industry and the world in general.

She boasted “lasting stability” for clients of CBS. “Advertising on CBS gets you reach and scale,” she said.

She talked up CBS All Access, addressable TV, and brand-safe content. She boasted of Madam Secretary being awarded for its representation of females.

“There has never been a better time for all of us to lead the change we want to see,” Ross said.

David Nevins, chief creative officer, came out next. He spoke of deep engagement between CBS content and its viewers. He cited the “strategic course” laid out by Ianniello.

Nevins called CBS All Access “a place for passionate viewers.” He labelled Showtime “premium-cable royalty.” Smithsonian Channel, Pop and CBS Sports Network, he said, are “smart, sexy and sweaty.”

Nevins mentioned the “depth and talent” in the executive ranks at CBS. “We are honored to be America’s most watched network today, as we have for the past decade,” he said, and plan to be for the future.

Entertainment president Kelly Kahl talked up the new programs. He spoke of CBS’ more diverse and “inclusive” series.

He singled out the 279 episodes of The Big Bang Theory. “This show is among the very finest comedies ever to grace this network,” he said. 

The cast and Chuck Lorre were brought to stage, eliciting a standing ovation. 

“This has been an unbelievable journey for us all, we’re very grateful,” Lorre said.

Kahl next plugged The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “Stephen is the most topical, influential and relevant voice in late night,” said Kahl.

Colbert said he read a four-page summary from William Barr about CBS. “Turns out Les Moonves is totally exonerated!” he quipped.

Colbert discussed new programs such as FBI: Most Wanted. “When it comes to finding new voices, CBS will take a chance with anyone who’s already on CBS,” he joked.

Colbert said Big Bang is going off the air so the cast can enter the Democratic race for the presidency. All are polling ahead of John Hickenlooper, he said.

Kahl brought out Thom Sherman, senior executive VP of programming, to talk about the new shows. He talked about the shows’ thought-provoking concepts, cultural relevance and inclusivity.

Cedric the Entertainer of The Neighborhood came out to discuss programming. He mentioned how many people approach him in public to discuss his show, a testament to broadcast TV.

Cedric introduced Bob ♥ Abishola, and cast members Billy Gardell and Folake Olowofoyeku.

Sherman then shared The Unicorn, with cast members Walton Goggins and Michaela Watkins, among others, stepping on stage. Goggins said the show is “about finding out who you are on the other side of loss.”

Carol’s Second Act has Patricia Heaton learning to be a doctor after getting divorced and retiring from teaching. Heaton, Kyle MacLachlan and the rest of the cast came out. “This is a comedy with heart, and America is going to love it,” said Heaton.

Susan Zirinsky, president of news, was out next. She mentioned the “one hell of a journey” her career has represented.

“We have the right people in the right places,” she said of CBS News. “The entire news organization feels energized.”

She spoke of the “hard news of the heart” on CBS This Morning, and praised Gayle King. She brought out the new CBS This Morning team, King, Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil.

“We will give it 110%,” said King.

Zirinsky then talked up new evening anchor Norah O’Donnell. “Norah has street cred like no other anchor in the business,” said Zirinsky.

O’Donnell spoke of the “hunger and thirst for news” in America. Moving the newscast to Washington, she added, is a “game-changer.”

James Corden, The Late Late Show host, was next out. He singled out the anchors for not starting their newscasts with, “You’re not going to believe this shit.”

Sherman then discussed the new CBS dramas. Legal drama All Rise shows judges, prosecutors and public defenders in Los Angeles. The cast, including Simone Missick, Wilson Bethel and Marg Helgenberger, trotted out. Missick likened the series to a roller coaster. “It is fast, it is fun, it will have you holding your breath one moment and laughing the next.”

Michelle and Robert King’s Evil looks at where evil deeds come from.

Star Katja Herbers called working with the Kings “a dream come true.”

Sherman shared the mid-season shows, including comedy Broke and dramas FBI: Most Wanted from Dick Wolf and Tommy, with Edie Falco as the LAPD chief.

Kahl brought out Noriko Kelley, executive VP of program planning and scheduling, to share CBS’ night-by-night schedule. Kelley called it “an aggressive 52-week plan.”

Kahl termed it a “classic CBS fall schedule,” plugged the CBS team, and wrapped things up. 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the L.A. Times and New York magazine.