Reviving CBS - The Leslie Moonves Way

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Case Details:

Case Code : BSTR232
Case Length : 18 Pages
Period : 1990-2006
Organization : CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox Broadcasting
Pub Date : 2006
Teaching Note :  Available
Countries : US
Industry : Media and Broadcasting

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"Watching the triumph of CBS is a little like seeing your grandmother dump your grandfather, get a tummy tuck… and start dating guys younger than you." 1

- James PonieWozik, Columnist with Time, on the turnaround of CBS, in 2005.

"One or two little mistakes, and you're no longer No. 1. I'm always looking at what can go wrong instead of what can go right." 2

- Leslie Moonves, President and CEO of CBS Corporation, in 2005.

Winner Again !

CBS Television emerged as the most popular television network in the US according to television rankings for the season3 2005-06.

The ranking released by Nielsen Media Research4 in May 2006 put CBS ahead of rivals FOX Broadcasting Company (FOX), American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and NBC Television Network (NBC) for the fourth consecutive year.

In the same season, CBS was also the most popular network in the Thursday night prime time5 slot - a slot dominated by NBC in the period between the mid-1980s and early 2000s.

CBS' revenues grew by five percent in the year 2005 (Refer Table I for revenue details of the four networks for the year 2004 and 2005). CBS was the flagship television channel of the CBS Corporation, formed in December 2005 after

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Viacom6 was split into Viacom Inc., and CBS Corporation. CBS was in deep trouble between the late 1980s and early 1990s due to managerial mismanagement under President, Chairman and CEO Laurence Tisch (Tisch) who reportedly looked after his own interests at the cost of CBS.

He sold off CBS' assets such as the recording division and neglected the radio division completely. At this time, CBS' television network aired shows that appealed only to old people and those in rural areas, and with such limited audiences, they often ranked at the bottom in television rankings. All this changed with the entry of Leslie Moonves (Moonves) who joined as President of CBS Entertainment in 1995. Under his leadership, CBS gradually transformed its television programming to appeal to all sections of the TV watching public. With reality shows such as Survivor,7  and shows such as Crime Scene Investigation (CSI),8 CBS became the most watched broadcast network in the US in 2002 and continued to dominate even in 2006.

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1] Poniewozik, James. "CBS Gets Youth Implants,", May 18, 2005.

2] Hirschberg, Lynn. "Giving Them What They Want,", September 04, 2005.

3] A television season in the US usually starts in mid-September and ends in May the next year. Networks compete with each other to attract advertisers by showcasing their lineups for the Fall (September - December).

4] Headquartered in New York, Nielsen Media Research is a renowned provider of television audience measurement and advertising information services worldwide. It has offices around the world in more than 40 countries.

5] The Thursday night primetime slot, between 8:00 pm and 10:30 pm, was developed by NBC during the 1980s and 1990s by showing its blockbuster serials in that slot. NBC called its Thursday night lineup 'Must See TV', and it consisted of four situational comedy shows and one drama. Since then, the networks have been vying with each other to dominate that time slot by airing their best shows. Advertisers have been paying premiums to advertise during that time.

6] In July 1971, CBS combined its CBS Enterprises (CBS' television syndication division) and Cable-Vue (cable systems) into Viacom International. The name was changed to Viacom Enterprises (VE) and was spun off in June 1971. VE started acquiring cable systems across the US and began feature film syndication in 1972. In 1985, VE

7] Survivor is a reality game show where around 20 strangers (the number varies) are divided into teams (tribes) and are left in a remote location. The teams compete against each other in various competitions and members are voted out of each team after a competing round. When the number of players is around 10, they merge into a single team and compete individually. The winner of the episode is awarded one million dollars.

8] CSI shows a group of forensic experts who unravel the mysteries behind unexplained deaths.


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