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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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Focus on Research

To learn about the audience's preferences and views on its shows, CBS started a research center known as 'Television City' at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in April 2001. The main aim of the center was to engage in continuous interaction with the television viewing audience. The state-of-the-art center consisted of two screening rooms, each with a capacity of 25 seats, which conducted screening of pilots and shows under production to the audience for free. The screening began at 9:00 am everyday and was conducted every 20 minutes.

The audience (focus group) was made to sit in either of the screening rooms and was monitored through a glass window by the CBS executives sitting in the other room...

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CSI Takes Charge

In October 2001, Survivor: Africa debuted. However, the series attracted fewer viewers than its predecessors. In February 2002, Survivor Marquesas (Survivor IV) was launched and about 23 million people watched the debut, which was eight percent less than the number of people who watched Friends. During the 2001-02 season, CBS had only CSI among the top five shows at #2 after Friends. NBC was once again the most watched network for the season...

CBS Regains Ground

During the 2003-04 season, CBS again emerged as the most popular network in terms of viewership and also as the leader in the Thursday night prime time slot. Though its target audience was 25-54 years old, many of its shows featured in the top ten shows list in the 18-49 demographic too. The repeat telecasts of its hit shows (attracting only one-third of the original audience) were viewed by more people than the repeat shows of its competitors...

Exploring New Revenue Opportunities

The traditional television networks had been facing stiff competition from the cable television and the Internet, which had been taking away both the advertising revenues and the viewers. To ward off the threat from cable television and the Internet, CBS started looking out for other revenue generating opportunities. In early November 2005, CBS partnered with Comcast Corporation to sell CSI, NCIS, Amazing Race, and Survivor shows on a video-on-demand platform at 99 cents per episode...

The Road Ahead

Though CBS was the most watched network during the 2005-06 season, it had a few issues to sort out. In the 2005-06 season, CBS lost two percent of its audience as compared to the 2004-05 season (Refer Table III for viewership details during 2005-06). CBS was third after FOX and ABC in the coveted 18-49 year-old segment, where advertisers paid premiums. FOX's American Idol was the most popular show for the second consecutive time during 2005-06 season overtaking CSI and Survivor. In the past couple of years, ABC had been gaining popularity with its hit shows like Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy...


Exhibit I: Profiles of Major Competitors of CBS
Exhibit II: Top Primetime Network Between 1994 & 2006
Exhibit III: CBS Logo in 1951
Exhibit IV: The US Television Industry

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