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After Moonves’ Downfall, Nothing Is Certain at Famously Reliable CBS

New leader Joe Ianniello tries to keep the network steady

For most of Les Moonves’ two decades leading CBS, it was television’s most reliable, predictably successful broadcast network. Now its future is anything but predictable.

Under Moonves’ leadership, the network has grown into one of the most stable broadcasters, beating all of its competitors in viewership every year for the past decade, and in 15 of the past 16 years. And by all accounts, Moonves himself was heavily involved in the day-to-day programming decisions that led to that success, from choosing which pilots would make it to air to placing them on the schedule.

Moonves’ fall — because of accusations of sexual misconduct from a dozen women — leaves the CBS board of directors with the difficult job of finding a new chairman and CEO to fill his shoes, but in the short-term, much of the pressure will fall on interim CEO Joe Ianniello.

A CBS executive of more than 20 years, Ianniello most recently served as chief operating officer under Moonves and has spent much of his career being groomed as the ousted executive’s hand-picked replacement.

In a memo to staff on Monday, Ianniello promised a smooth transition, along with a “steadfast commitment to diversity, inclusion and a safe and positive working environment.”

“I want to take a minute to appreciate all the fantastic work you have done these past several months, as we have continued to move our Company forward no matter the challenges,” he said. “It is the people of this Corporation that make CBS what it is, and I am humbled to be leading this team.”

CBS’s position as an independent company has also become somewhat of a question mark as media companies have increasingly looked to scale in order to compete with the looming threat of tech giants like Netflix, Amazon and Apple.

Even as Moonves has built a reputation in the industry for his ability to charm advertisers to the traditional TV model, the company also launched CBS All Access, the subscription-based streaming service boasting titles like “Star Trek: Discovery” and “The Good Fight.”

Moonves mounted strong resistance to a potential reunification of CBS and Viacom, and a key piece of the settlement agreement between CBS and National Amusements was that the parent company would “make no such proposal for at least two years.”

However, in a blog post published on Monday, BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield wrote that a merger remained possible and even likely.  The language of the settlement leaves room for either the independent boards of CBS or Viacom to make the proposal.

“We believe that is incorrect and strongly believe a merger between Viacom and CBS will take place in 2019,” Greenfield wrote.

Also still in question is the result of the independent investigation into the corporate culture at CBS, which began in July after the first allegations against Moonves, from six women, were published in the New Yorker. The magazine reported on accusations from six more women on Sunday morning, and Moonves’ exit followed soon after.

CBS had initially kept Moonves as CEO while hiring two law firms to investigate the accusations against him, as well as the larger culture within the company. A spokesman for one of the investigations confirmed to TheWrap on Sunday that it is ongoing.

CBS won’t go the way of The Weinstein Company, which was sold off after Harvey Weinstein’s fall. But if the investigation finds wide institutional problems, no one can predict what changes might come to CBS.