CBS Looks to Get Out of No. 3 Hole

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The Player: CBS

Key Executive: JoAnn Ross, president-network sales.

The Ratings Game: The network is in third place in the 18-to-49 demo, but could give ABC and Fox a run for the money for the end-of-season ratings crown, according to Magna Global prime-time analysis. Two new midseason entries are already performing well, "The New Adventures of Old Christine," and "The Unit." Through week 26 (March 21), CBS is down 5% in the 18-49 demo-that's on a par with Fox- but behind ABC which is up 8%. Across the six broadcast networks the demo is down 3% on last year. NCAA basketball coverage is up compared to last year's numbers,

What You'll Hear: In addition to its perennially stable schedule, touted by CEO Leslie Moonves for its "breadth and depth," CBS is touting the Super Bowl as its big upfront story. Advertisers will also hear a lot about content on multiple platforms, such as "Survivor" on CBS.com and wireless initiatives.

Last year's upfront: CBS played its cards much closer to its chest during the 2005-2006 season negotiations than in previous years when Viacom's former Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin was running the show. The Eye network slipped into the market with CPM increases of between 4% and 6%, closing deals right after ABC, which went out early and established that range. Last year, CBS also had corporate sibling UPN under its corporate wing. This upfront, the netlet will be part of a new entity, the CW, and will stand on its own two feet.

The Buyer's Verdict: "They don't have a lot of holes in the schedule, but they do have a few aging series that they can easily remedy with five shows that all have one word titles: 'Smith,' 'Shark,' 'Edison,' 'Orpheus' and 'Ultra,"' said Doug Seay, senior VP Starcom. "CBS has some good stuff in development. Yes, 'Amazing Race,' is wearing out a little bit and 'CSI,' well, three might be too many. But they have such an enviable position and the ratings are doing well."
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