Moonves backs up Big Brother

CBS executives met the television critics in Los Angeles Tuesday and received the drubbing they anticipated in the wake of Big Brother's recent knife incident.

CBS TV President and CEO Les Moonves defended the network's position on the reality series and also downplayed CBS' potential re-purposing plans with co-owned cable networks like TNN and MTV. The 200-plus critics had been awaiting Moonves' arrival since New Jersey bartender Justin Sebik put a knife to a fellow contestant on Big Brother on July 11.

"Clearly we did not expect that result from Justin, we had a clean psychological profile, we had a clean criminal background check and all of those other background checks that are done," Moonves told critics. "We met with him and we saw that this a working class guy, he's a bartender, he's a tough guy from New Jersey. We didn't think he would have antisocial behavior. We were surprised by what happened." Moonves says he is still a fan of the show, but held back from committing to another installment of the series next summer.

A day after Disney announced its re-purposing plans for newly acquired ABC Family, Moonves said "at this moment" CBS has no plans to put primetime series on a co-owned cable network within the same week of its CBS debut. "We are considering it, we are talking about it with a couple of our new shows, but I'm a little scared of doing it," Moonves said. "If I had my druthers, I wouldn't put on anything (outside of CBS)."

On CBS's Up-front advertising strategy, Moonves said the network only sold about 65% to 67% and that CPM'S (Cost Per Thousand) were up vs. last year. "We are betting on our schedule, maybe more than some of the other guys are betting on their schedule and we feel there is going to be scatter money available."

The network also unveiled its fall roll-out plans, which includes the debut of Survivor: Africa on Thursday Oct. 11. The third installment of Survivor will end on Jan 10 with a 2-hour episode and the fourth Survivor will debut in March 2002 after the Winter Olympics. The majority of CBS' primetime lineup will debut during the week of Sept. 17. New reality series The Amazing Race will get going on Sept. 5 and new drama Wolf Lake will debut on Sept. 11.
- Joe Schlosser