With the help of at least one Super Bowl-size rating during the women's figure skating competition, CBS will deliver a bonus to sponsors of nearly 50% over the guaranteed 18.6 prime-time rating.
This is not speculation, it's mathematical projection: Through the first six days of Olympics coverage, CBS averaged a 24.7 Nielsen rating and a 37 share with some of the best dramas yet to come.
But as CBS executives make their way back from Norway, they will face the truly Olympian task of repositioning the network for a 1994-95 TV season without Major League Baseball, pro football, an Olympics or any other significant event.
Moreover, NBC is showing signs of prime-time life; Fox will have professional football's National Football Conference; Paramount Television and Warner Bros. will be fielding their own new networks; and most significantly, ABC will be breathing down CBS' neck with what is arguably the most solid prime-time schedule of the Big 3, plus the Super Bowl and World Series.
Also looming on CBS' horizon is a potential takeover, with rumors of suitors ranging from Walt Disney Co. to a Baby Bell. On Friday, USA Today reported CBS Chairman Larry Tisch may be planning to "liquefy" Loews Corp.'s stock holdings, including its 22.5% controlling share of CBS Inc.
Meanwhile, CBS Sports is in shambles following the loss of all major professional sports, and the network's prime-time architect, CBS Entertainment President Jeff Sagansky, may very well be raided by a rival when his contract expires in May.
"There's no question that our toughest battles are ahead of us," said a senior CBS executive. "But that's what we thrive on."
Indeed, CBS has been finalizing a blueprint that includes restructuring its corporate echelon and a renewed focus on the prime-time schedule.
Advertising Age has learned the primary change will be the promotion of Peter Lund to president of the CBS Television Network from president of CBS Marketing and exec VP of the CBS Broadcast Group.
The network president's job has been vacant about six years, but Mr. Lund has tacitly been performing that role. He will keep responsibility for the network's radio and TV stations.
Tony Malara, president of CBS affiliate relations, will report to Mr. Lund instead of CBS Broadcast Group President Howard Stringer. Mr. Lund will continue to report to Mr. Stringer, who will be freed by the restructuring to focus on the critical areas of programming, as well as international expansion and new media.
"This is a critical development season for us, because with or without Jeff Sagansky, next year is going to be a lot closer [in ratings] for us," said a CBS executive.
CBS officials down played rumors other exec utive changes are pending, including a shift of Senior VP-Sales Joe Abruzzese to president of CBS Sports.
Although it's likely a new executive will be tapped to replace current CBS Sports President Neal Pilson, Mr. Abruzzese is said to be valued for his role in sales.
Network executives are encouraged by the recent performance of several new CBS series, including Wednesday night's "The Nanny," and note they have three strong contenders starting after the Olympics, including Tom Arnold's "Tom" and "The Road Home."
But CBS's most significant momentum is in late night.
CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" has exceeded all projections so far this season, but its performance since the beginning of the Olympics is truly remarkable.
With virtually 100% clearance from CBS' affiliates during the Olympics, "Letterman" averaged an 8.8 rating and a 26 share of late-night viewers for the four telecasts through last Thursday night in the 30 TV markets metered by Nielsen Media Research. By comparison, NBC's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" averaged a 4.1 rating and a 13 share.
On Thursday, "Letterman" had a 9.6 rating, actually beating the prime-time showings of six other programs on the networks.