|Viacom Co-President Les Moonves pulled no punches at the CBS upfront. Here, he is shown at the CBS after-party at the Tavern on the Green.
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With his co-president and head of Viacom's MTV Networks, Tom Feston, in attendance, Mr. Moonves bashed cable, saying broadcast network TV is the only place to reach 20 million to 30 million people in one shot, a message aimed at the advertisers and media buyers who will decide on which CBS programs to buy commercial airtime.
"Network TV is a hit-driven business. ... There's not a lot of hype about cable shows. You'd need to buy 81 spots on Bravo's Queer Eye to reach as many people as one CSI spot. But if you must buy cable, support MTV Networks," he said.
Cable network Bravo is owned by NBC Universal, part of General Electric Co., while CSI is a major hit for CBS, Viacom's main broadcast network.
Turning to broadcast rival NBC, Mr. Moonves, who also heads CBS, hammered the network relentlessly during the two-hour presentation in Carnegie Hall. He took aim at NBC's claims that it offers a more upscale audience than its rivals, which also include News Corp's Fox and Walt Disney Co.' ABC. "No matter what the other guys tell you, we have more [$100,000-plus] adults than anyone else." After praising ABC's new hits and the continued strength of Fox's American Idol, Mr. Moonves continued the tough pitch: "A word of caution -- you're not buying one or two shows, you're buying the entire schedule."
CBS -- which industry observers predict will take the largest share of upfront advertiser dollars this year, between $2.4 billion to $2.6 billion, according to early estimates -- repeatedly touted its No. 1 status in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic in regularly scheduled programming, though Fox holds that honor overall season-to-date.
Unveiling the new schedule, Mr. Moonves stressed that the network was looking to get younger, but would program for everybody -- red states and blue. CBS axed the controversial 60 Minutes Wednesday, which aired the flawed report on President Bush's National Guard service. Also leaving the schedule are Judging Amy, Jag and Joan of Arcadia.
Six new prime-time shows
CBS is adding six new shows to prime time, and among the most-talked about were How I Met Your Mother, a sitcom airing Monday at 8:30 p.m., and Close to Home, a Jerry Bruckheimer show about a female prosecutor. (Mr. Bruckheimer is behind the highly rated CSI franchise.) CBS is also adding Criminal Minds on Wednesday at 9 p.m., about a team that pieces together portraits of killers.
While the schedule was widely praised by media buyers at the upfront presentation, there was some concern about the number of police procedural dramas one schedule could carry.
Research from media agency Magna Global supported CBS's claim that major hits on other networks have barely touched CBS as much as other rivals. Still, Magna Global's morning report on the schedule predicted a possible weakness on Monday nights now that Everybody Loves Raymond has ended its popular run. Two and a Half Men is taking over the Raymond time slot.
"We'll see if it can stand on its own without a lead-in," the report said.
Another major buyer said CBS should have focused its presentation more on the main prime-time schedule rather than emphasizing its sports coverage and improved ratings for its morning show.
The new CBS prime-time schedule:
8 p.m. The King of Queens
8:30 p.m. How I Met Your Mother
9 p.m. Two And A Half Men
9:30 p.m. Out of Practice
10 p.m. CSI: Miami
8 p.m. NCIS
9 p.m. The Amazing Race
10 p.m. Close to Home
8 p.m. Still Standing
8:30 p.m. Yes, Dear
9 p.m. Criminal Minds
10 p.m. CSI:NY
8 p.m. Survivor: Guatemala
9 p.m. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
10 p.m. Without A Trace
8 p.m. Ghost Whisperer
9 p.m. Threshold
10 p.m. Numb3rs
8 p.m. "Crimetime Saturday"
9 p.m. "Crimetime Saturday"
10 p.m. 48 Hours Mystery
7 p.m. 60 Minutes
8 p.m. Cold Case
9 p.m. "CBS Sunday Movie"