CBS tries to forget its past, WarnerMedia revamps for OTT: Upfronts download
Plus Conan O’Brien’s best jokes and CBS’s ‘Bull’ defense
Welcome to our special pop-up TV upfronts roundup. Each day this week we’re bringing you breaking news and some of the best (and worst) of TV’s dog-and-pony show, curated by Jeanine Poggi, senior editor, and delivered directly to your inbox. Get it in your email by signing up here.
My, how much things have changed. Last year at Carnegie Hall, advertisers gave Leslie Moonves a standing ovation. At this year’s upfront presentation, CBS execs sought to assure advertisers his tainted legacy has not impacted the stability of the company. They emphasized efforts at the eye network to push for diversity and inclusion, which the company has long been criticized for lacking.
One man brave enough to say his name
While none of the CBS execs who took the stage acknowledged Moonves by name, there was at least one person who wasn’t afraid to speak of the former chief. “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert said CBS handed him a massive document detailing how well the network performed this past year. But instead of reading the whole thing, Colbert said he read Attorney General Bill Barr’s four-page summary. “Les Moonves was totally exonerated. I didn’t see that coming.”
CBS execs spent a bulk of the annual upfronts press breakfast on Wednesday morning defending their decision to renew “Bull” for a fourth season despite reports that the network paid actress Eliza Dushku $9.5 million to settle her claim that she was sexually harassed by its star Michael Weatherly. (And just last week Steven Spielberg’s production company said it was cutting ties with the series.)
“Michael made a mistake in his comment. He owned that mistake, he was apologetic at the time [of the incident] and he was remorseful... and he apologized again when it came out,” CBS Entertainment head Kelly Kahl said. “We looked at this work in totality for the last 14 years. There had never been a complaint before about [his behavior] and there hasn’t been one since. He’s a dad, a father—he’s upset by this and he wants to do better.”
A final bow for ‘Big Bang’
The most emotional part of CBS’s presentation was the tribute to “The Big Bang Theory,” which will air its last episode this week. Kaley Cuoco, who plays Penny in the series, broke down on stage. “Young Sheldon” will replace the comedy in the Thursday 8 p.m. time slot. Here is a complete look at the fall schedule, plus trailers for some of CBS’s new shows.
Not so funny
TBS—the so-called “very funny” network—is getting serious. The WarnerMedia cable channel will add dramas to its lineup starting next year, Kevin Reilly, president of TBS and TNT and chief creative officer at WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer unit, announced during the company’s upfront pitch to advertisers on Wednesday morning.
It’s the first dog-and-pony show for WarnerMedia since being acquired by AT&T in June.
The decision to broaden out TBS’s programming is part of WarnerMedia’s more flexible programming strategy as it gears up for the launch of its direct-to-consumer platform in beta later this year, Reilly said.
While few details about the service were revealed, it will debut ad-free and then begin incorporating ads in its second phase.
Here is a complete look at WarnerMedia’s presentation, which featured stand-up from Conan O’Brien, Tracy Morgan talking about how he got hit by a Walmart truck and a very awkward exchange between Shaquille O’Neil and Niecy Nash.
Best of Conan O’Brien
“Wow, this again,” Conan O’Brien said upon taking the stage at the Theater at Madison Square Garden for WarnerMedia’s upfront presentation.
“It’s the Oscars for people who love PowerPoints,” O’Brien said about the upfronts. “Why does anyone come to this? I know why I’m here, it’s contractual; I don’t know why you’re here.”
“I look forward to seeing you next year when we are called the P.F. Chang’s WarnerMedia upfront.”
Since WarnerMedia is now owned by AT&T, O’Brien added, “after the show there will be a terrible reception.... Because it’s AT&T the after-party only has two bars.”
O’Brien also poked fun at WarnerMedia’s OTT ambitions: “I like their slogan, ‘Make WarnerMedia your seventh streaming service.’” He went on to suggest names for the platform including, “HBO Plus,” “WarnerMedia Now” and “StankeyVision,” referring to John Stankey, CEO of WarnerMedia.
Condé Nast invades upfronts
The publishing giant set up “living rooms” outside of some of the biggest network upfronts this week as it looks to position itself as a replacement for primetime TV. Condé also took over billboards across New York City, including in Times Square, with the message “Condé Nast: the new primetime” and set up shop in front of Disney’s event at Lincoln Center on Tuesday and CBS’s hoopla at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday.