CBS CEO George Cheeks Admits It’s a ‘Challenging Time’ in Wake of Bob Bakish Exit, Paramount Sale Talks

The executive says “we have no idea what could happen” as he helps craft the company’s long-term plans

George Cheeks
George Cheeks attends The Alliance For Children's Rights 31st Annual Champions (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

George Cheeks, the CEO of CBS, has spoken out about the network’s future in the wake of Bob Bakish’s exit as CEO of Paramount Global.

“It’s a really difficult, challenging time,” Cheeks said during a news briefing with CBS Entertainment president Amy Reisenbach.

“You read articles every day. But I think what’s good about this team is that we all locked arms and said, ‘We can only control what we can control.’ What we can control is helping to develop great shows, hit shows and being number one,” Cheeks continued. “I’m blown away by this team every single day, especially right now when you have to deal with all that noise out there — by the way, not just with this company, but in the larger industry. It’s just amazing to me how well we’ve all aligned and come together and focused on what we do every day.”

Cheeks also addressed the questions around Paramount Global’s ownership. Currently, Paramount, which is controlled by media executive Shari Redstone, has been considering a merger proposal from the head of Skydance Media, David Ellison.

“How much can you strategize long-term, knowing that things could change relatively soon?” Cheeks asked. “You don’t control those things. You strategize for the long-term. We believe that CBS has an incredible amount of momentum right now, and we want to continue to stay that course. We have no idea what could happen or if the transaction could happen or not, but regardless, we believe so strongly in CBS that we will keep doing what we’re doing.”

Following Bakish’s departure, Cheeks, Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios and Paramount Media Networks CEO Chris McCarthy and Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon CEO and president Brian Robbins will step in to make up an “Office of the CEO.” Bakish will remain at the company as a senior adviser through Oct. 31 to help ensure a seamless transition.

The CEO also elaborated on why certain on-the-cusp CBS shows get cancelled while others are moved to Paramount+. Though “NCIS: Hawai’i” and “CSI: Vegas” were cancelled this season, at least two CBS originals — “SEAL Team” and “Evil” — have been moved to Paramount+. Cheeks noted that moving these series to Paramount+ is always a “possibility” but not a “guarantee.”

“We look at the analysis, and we figure out whether it makes sense,” Cheeks said. “Budgets are challenged, and so we don’t have an unlimited amount of slots on Paramount+.”

Looking ahead, the priority for CBS will be on creating “broad mass hits” that reach audiences across all platforms “and then offering up products to the advertisers to help them target audiences they are looking for.”

“Obviously, that’s easier in the digital versus linear world,” Cheeks said. “But it really is about reaching audiences where they consume.”

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