CBS Says Yes to Multiplatforms, No to Shrimp

Moonves Nixes Tavern on the Green Party

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Looks like the shrimp cocktail at this year's upfront will be as scarce as this year's network ad inventory.
Leslie Moonves
Leslie Moonves Credit: AP

CBS is canceling its popular annual party at New York's Tavern on the Green. The event -- which always made plentiful shrimp one of its attractions -- has long been a mainstay of "upfront week," those four days in May when the big broadcast networks tout their coming fall schedules to advertisers.

While CBS will still hold its presentation at Carnegie Hall, the network will focus on all its media assets, not just its network-TV schedule, said Leslie Moonves, CBS Corp.'s CEO, during a presentation to investors at an event hosted by Bear Stearns this week. "The upfront is going to be somewhat different this year. It is a truncated development season with less costs associated with it because of the [writers] strike," Mr. Moonves said.

The strike, which started Nov. 5 and ended a few weeks ago, forced many networks to cancel deals with producers and writers and will likely result in few new shows for the fall season, along with delayed launches of other programs.

CBS's plans come to light just a few weeks after NBC Universal said it was reworking its upfront meeting to focus advertisers' attention on all of its ad venues, including cable and digital out of home. ABC has also considered putting on a more focused presentation for advertisers, Mike Shaw, the network's president-ad sales, said in a recent interview.

As consumers become more accepting of digital media, TV programs -- in part or in full -- can be viewed on mobile phones, computer screens and MP3 players. TV networks still enjoy a prominent roost as creators and distributors of quality content. Remarks such as those from Mr. Moonves make it look as if this year's upfront will place less emphasis on the boob tube and more on the dominant position TV networks want to have in so-called premium video across multiple media venues.

"The upfront has changed. There won't be all the bells and whistles," Mr. Moonves said. "There will be the presentation at Carnegie Hall. Unfortunately, there won't be the cocktail party at Tavern on the Green for all of you people." Mr. Moonves joked that "there will be wine in the back of the Carnege Hall. No, I don't know what we're doing."

Mr. Moonves said CBS would showcase not only its fall schedule, but radio, outdoor and syndication. "It's going to be a very different look than we've had before," he said.

Shrimp and the CBS upfront have been so intertwined in past years that Jo Ann Ross, CBS's president-network sales, once made light of the tasty shellfish by showing upfront attendees a "shrimp-cam" that promised scads of the food would be available.

A CBS spokesperson confirmed Mr. Moonves's remarks. "Shrimp or no shrimp, we still plan on selling a lot of advertising at the upfront," the spokesperson said.
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