WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 10: CEO of CBS Corp. Leslie Moonves attends CBS' 2015 Summer TCA party at the Pacific Design Center on August 10, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
In celebration of his 20th anniversary at the network, CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves opened up to New York Magazine about his history and philosophy as the leader of a major broadcast network.
In the enlightening interview, Moonves talked about all aspects of his role, including the kind programming put on by CBS, the declining number of people watching live television and the potential consequences of a TV content bubble.
Here’s the five buzziest takeaways from the interview below.
The changing business of TV Because CBS is still an advertiser-driven network, ratings are an important measure of a show’s success, but they aren’t the only criteria that needs to be taken into consideration.
With more and more people watching TV through DVR, video-on-demand and online, a show’s viewership can no longer be accurately represented by overnight ratings, Moonves said.
But now, with advertising and SVOD and international and other different windowing, it’s almost like the ratings on ‘Zoo’ don’t matter as much because I’m getting paid in a lot of different ways.
I’m not just being Pollyanna-ish about this. I made a statement a few months ago: Overnight ratings are virtually useless now. When I analyze the performance of a show, it is extremely different than it was even five years ago, no less 20 years ago.
The consequences of a TV content bubble Moonves also gave his take on FX Networks CEO John Landgraf‘s prediction at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour that “there is simply too much television” being produced.
“Oh, there’s no question,” he responded when asked about a growing TV content bubble. “Having said that, it’s a pretty great time in the content business for television, qualitatively.”
I don’t know how they’re going to be able to afford to do it. Netflix has one model — but they have 65 million subs. Some of these smaller places aren’t going to be able to afford to do [programming]. There are too many places doing original content. I don’t know how people are going to find them. There are cable channels nobody’s heard of. And the skinny bundle clearly is something that’s beginning to happen.
Government regulation of cable bundling Despite being a proponent of the “small bundle” allowing subscribers to choose the content they pay for, Moonves took a hard-line stance against any FCC regulation that would mandate a la carte cable subscriptions.
Washington should stay the heck out of our way. They have no place in these discussions. The key is what does the consumer want to watch, and what’s the level at which they want to pay.
Too many procedurals? CBS has received more than its fair share of criticism for the kinds of shows it airs. Over Moonves’ 20-year tenure, the network has produced many iterations of “CSI,” “NCIS” and other procedurals.
But Moonves disagrees. Even though networks have begun to place more value in serialized television series, that doesn’t make procedurals any less valuable, he said. The formula of a procedural has proven to work in the past, and Moonves was quick to point out that CBS has a long history of success making those kinds of shows.
[ABC chief] Paul Lee said something in his [TV Critics Association] press tour remarks that I disagree with. Most of what he said I agree with 100 percent, and he did a very good job. But he said serialized things are more valuable than procedurals. No, serialized shows are more valuable than they used to be. ‘Scandal’ still is very valuable, more valuable than before. I’ll take an ‘NCIS’ over that any day, in terms of absolute viability in the world … I do not see, necessarily, the kind of shows we’re doing changing drastically over time. ‘Code Black’ is another version of ‘ER.’ And the reason I like ‘Code Black’? I think it’s the best medical show since ‘ER.’
Brian Williams for “The Late Show” Moonves had nothing but praise for Stephen Colbert, who is set to make his CBS late-night debut as the new host of “The Late Show” Tuesday. “[CBS marketing chief] George Schweitzer just showed me 30 promos for Colbert, and I love them,” he said. “They were all great. So we’re looking forward to September 8 with great excitement.”
But the exec emphatically refused to comment when asked about New York Magazine’s previous reporting that Brian Williams had also thrown his hat in the ring.
NYMag: Late night is on everyone’s minds right now. My colleague Gabriel Sherman reported that Brian Williams pitched himself for Letterman’s gig before you hired Stephen Colbert. Can you tell me anything about that, and whether you considered it even for a minute?
I’m not going to discuss it.
Was it true?
45 First Looks at New TV Shows From the 2015-2016 Season
"Superstore" (NBC): The show was picked up by NBC on May 7, and features America Ferrera and Ben Feldman in a comedy revolving around a unique family of employees at a super-sized megastore. Together, they tackle the day-to-day grind of bargain hunters, riot-causing sales, and snooze-worth training sessions. Ferrera’s casting marks her return to series TV since wrapping her award-winning role on ABC’s “Ugly Betty” in 2010.
"Crowded" (NBC): Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner executive-produced “Crowded.” The show features empty nesters Mike (Patrick Warburton) and Martina (Carrie Preston). After 20 years of parenting, they are finally reclaiming their wild side. But when both of their grown daughters unexpectedly move back in, they are forced to scratch their plans to move to Florida.
"Supergirl" (CBS): The series, from Berlanti Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television, will revolve around Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist), who escaped Krypton amid its destruction years ago, and has been hiding the powers she shares with her famous cousin, Superman, since arriving on Earth. But now at age 24, she decides to embrace her superhuman abilities and become the hero she was always meant to be.
"Truth Be Told" (NBC): The self-described “unabashed” comedy follows two diverse couples who are both neighbors and best friends. The show comes from producer Will Packer (“Ride Along”) and director Pam Fryman (“How I Met Your Mother”).
"Chicago Med" (NBC): “Chicago Med”, revolves around the day-to-day chaos of the city’s most explosive hospital and the courageous team of doctors who hold it together. They will tackle unique new cases inspired by topical events, forging fiery relationships in the pulse-pounding pandemonium of the emergency room, and through it all, familiar faces from the Chicago police and fire departments will intertwine as this third team of Chicago heroes hits the ground running.
"Heartbreaker" (NBC): The show, based on the real life and achievements of Dr. Kathy Magliato, is a character-driven medical drama that follows Dr. Alex Panttiere (George), an outspoken world-renowned heart-transplant surgeon and one of the few women in her field.
"Blindspot" (NBC): The show explores a vast international plot that explodes when a beautiful Jane Doe is discovered naked in Times Square, completely covered in mysterious, intricate tattoos with no memory of who she is or how she got there. There’s one thing that’s very clear, however: the name of FBI agent Kurt Weller, emblazoned across her back. Catch "Blindspot" Mondays at 10EST on NBC.
"Coach" (NBC): The new offering picks up 18 years after the original ABC series went off the air, with Nelson’s Fox in the present day and retired from coaching. However, he is called back to become assistant coach to his own grown son, who is the new head coach at an Ivy league school in Pennsylvania that is just starting up a new team.
On August 31, NBC pulled the plug on the project after filming a pilot episode.
"The Grinder" (Fox): Rob Lowe stars as beloved TV lawyer Dean Sanderson, with Fred Savage starring as his brother, Stewart. When his series ends, he finds himself at a crossroads in life and decides to move back to his home town. "The Grinder" airs Tuesday at 8:30EST on FOX.
"The Catch" (ABC): This new Shondaland thriller follows a woman about to get married and about to get conned. Unbeknownst to her slippery fiancé, our heroine (Mireille Enos) — who investigates fraud for a living — is not all she claims to be. When the fiancé’s expertly planned con collides with her perfectly constructed lies, they plunge into a dangerous game of cat and mouse. Based on the novel from Kate Atkinson.
"Lookinglass" (Fox): The drama follows the morally corrupt and retired cop Ray Pritchard (Rob Kazinsky) given a second chance at life when he is brought back from the dead. He’ll have to choose between his old lifestyle and new sense of purpose while navigating the complicated relationship with his “creators”: an antisocial Internet billionaire and his bio-engineer twin sister.
"Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life" (Fox): After a particularly calamitous experience, 26-year-old Cooper Barrett (Jack Cutmore Scott) turns to camera and, using cautionary tales from his own life, episode by episode, helps the youth of America survive the ridiculous disaster that is life and love in your 20’s.
"Lucifer" (Fox): Based on the DC Comics character, Lucifer (Tom Ellis) who, bored and unhappy as the Lord of Hell, resigns his throne and abandons his kingdom for the beauty of Los Angeles, where he gets his kicks helping the LAPD punish criminals.
"Minority Report" (Fox): Based on the feature film, the drama takes place 10 years after the end of Precrime in D.C.. When one of the three Precogs struggles to lead a “normal” human life, he remains haunted by visions the future. When he meets a detective haunted by her past, she just may help him find a purpose to his gift. "Minority Report" airs Mondays at 9EST on FOX.
"The Muppets" (ABC): This latest incarnation will explore the Muppets’ personal lives and relationships, both at home and at work, as well as romances, break-ups, achievements, disappointments, wants and desires in documentary style. Catch "The Muppets" Tuesdays at 8EST on ABC.
"Of Kings and Prophets" (ABC): An epic Biblical saga of faith, ambition and betrayal as told through the eyes of a battle-weary king, a powerful and resentful prophet and a resourceful young shepherd on a collision course with destiny. The show has been delayed for casting reasons.
"Quantico" (ABC): A group of young FBI recruits, all with specific reasons for joining, battle their way through training at the Quantico base in Virginia. As the show intercuts between their hidden pasts and their present training, it also flash-forwards to the near future, where one of the recruits will turn out to be a sleeper terrorist responsible for the most devastating terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11. "Quantico" airs Sundays at 10EST on ABC.
"The Real O'Neals" (ABC): Dan Savage’s semi-autobiographical spectacle revolves around a picture-perfect family turned upside down when the youngest son comes out of the closet. What seems like the end of their idyllic life turns out to be the beginning of a bright new chapter when everyone stops pretending to be perfect and actually starts being real.
"Rosewood" (Fox): The investigative drama centers around the brilliant Dr. Beaumont Rosewood, Jr. (Morris Chestnut), the top private pathologist in all of Miami. In his lab, he finds secrets in the bodies of those usually dismissed. Despite being surrounded by death, Rosewood is obsessed with life and it frustrates the cynical female detective he often works with, but she can’t argue with the results his perspective provides. Catch "Rosewood" Wednesdays at 8EST on Fox.
"Uncle Buck" (ABC): Based on the 1989 movie, Uncle Buck is a multi-camera family comedy about a childish man (Mike Epps) who learns how to be an adult by taking care of his brother’s kids in a very childish way.
"Blood and Oil" (ABC): The biggest oil discovery in American history (bigger than Texas and as big as Saudi Arabia) has triggered a geopolitical shift and an economic boom in North Dakota on a scale not seen since the American 1849 Gold Rush. This series tracks the epic pilgrimage of a young, ambitious couple to the oil fields of the Bakken seeking their fortune and a better life — a classic tale with modern twists. As we follow their trials and tribulations in a modern day “Wild West”, they negotiate a colorful ensemble of roughnecks, grifters, oil barons, criminals, and fellow prospectors against a stark and beautiful backdrop. "Blood and Oil" airs Sundays at 9EST on ABC.
"Wicked City" (ABC): This character-driven, true-crime procedural explores sex, politics and popular culture across various noteworthy eras in L.A. history. Season one focuses on two LA cops in search for a Bonnie & Clyde-esque serial killing team amidst the rock-and-roll, coke-infused revelry of the 1980s Sunset Strip. "Wicked City" premieres October 27 on ABC.
"The Player" (NBC): From the executive producers of "The Blacklist" and starring Wesley Snipes and Philip Winchester ("Strike Back," "Fringe") comes an action-packed Las Vegas thriller. A former military operative turned security expert is drawn into a high-stakes game where an organization of wealthy individuals gamble on his ability to stop some of the biggest crimes imaginable from playing out. "The Player" airs Thursdays at 10EST on NBC.
"Code Black"(CBS): Based on the award-winning documentary by Ryan McGarry, "Code Black" is a new medical drama that takes place in the busiest, most notorious ER in the nation. The staggering influx of patients can outweigh the limited resources available to the extraordinary doctors and nurses whose job is to treat them all – creating a condition known as Code Black. "Code Black" airs Wednesdays at 10EST on CBS.
"Rush Hour" (CBS): A reimagining of the hit feature film franchise, this new buddy-cop drama follows maverick LAPD detective Carter and by-the-book Hong Kong detective and master martial artist Lee, who knock heads when they are forced to partner together in Los Angeles.
"Life in Pieces" (CBS): This new single camera comedy follows one big happy family and their sometimes awkward, often hilarious and ultimately beautiful milestone moments as told by its various members. "Life in Pieces" airs Mondays at 8:30EST on CBS.
"Angel From Hell" (CBS): A comedy about Amy (Jane Lynch), a colorful, brassy woman, who insinuates herself into Allison’s organized and seemingly perfect life, claiming to be her "guardian angel." "Angel from Hell" premieres November 5 on CBS.
"Limitless" (CBS): Based on the feature film, the new drama follows Brian Finch, who discovers the brain-boosting power of the mysterious drug NZT, and is coerced by the FBI into using his extraordinary cognitive abilities to solve complex cases for them. Catch "Limitless" Tuesdays at 10EST on CBS.
"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" (CW): “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” stars Rachel Bloom, who also serves as an executive producer on the show, as a woman who may be going crazy when she gives up everything to move to West Covina, CA in an attempt to find happiness. Aline Brosh McKenna and Marc Webb will also act as EPs. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" premieres October 12 on the CW.
"Containment" (CW): “Containment” is set in the aftermath of a mysterious and deadly epidemic breaks out in Atlanta and stars David Gyasi, Christina Moses and Chris Wood.
"Legends of Tomorrow" (CW): DC's “Legends of Tomorrow” stars Victor Garber, Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, Dominic Purcell and Wentworth Miller, all reprising superhero or supervillain roles they first played on “Arrow” or “The Flash,” along with newcomers Arthur Darvill, Franz Drameh and Ciara Renee.
"Scream Queens" (Fox): The anthology series revolves around a college campus grappling with a series of murders and the sorority girls wrapped up in the chaos. Ryan Murphy, creator of "Glee" and "American Horror Story," writes and produces. "Scream Queens" airs Tuesdays at 9EST on Fox.
"Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris" (NBC): Neil Patrick Harris hosts his own variety show that will feature sketches, musical numbers, mini game shows, hidden camera pranks and celebrity appearances.