When Leslie Moonves arrived at CBS in July 1995, the so-called Tiffany Network was in last place among total viewers. By the 1996-97 season — the first one Moonves would have had a hand in developing from a pilot perspective — CBS and its new president of entertainment had leapfrogged ABC and settled into third.
With some success under his belt, Moonves was understandably promoted to Viacom Inc. co-president and co-COO in 2004. And when CBS split with Viacom in December 2005, the one he went to fared far better.
By the time it was out on its own, CBS was steadily finishing seasons as the No. 1 broadcast network in terms of in total viewers. The broadcast net hasn’t really looked back since — but we have.
CBS has won the last 10 traditional Nielsen TV seasons among total viewers and 15 of the past 16. That’s really impressive, but the industry is pretty used to hearing that statistic — and often in Moonves’ own voice.
We can stretch the study out to encapsulate the entirety of Moonves’ tenure — including the slower days he was brought in to speed up. CBS has won 17 of the last 24 seasons in overall audience averages and two of them among adults 18-49.
During that time period, the Warner Bros. alum developed “Big Bang Theory,” “NCIS,” the “CSI” franchise, “JAG,” “Blue Bloods” and “Young Sheldon,” as well as other hits.
But that was all under Les, and he’s gone. It’s now Joe Ianniello’s job (for the time being, anyway) to keep the momentum going. Can he? The well-respected Ianniello is inheriting a hell of a lot better of a situation than Moonves did.
The 2017-18 season, which would turn out to be Moonves’ final one at the helm of CBS, was a pretty remarkable one — even for Moonves and his own entertainment president Kelly Kahl. CBS squeezed past NBC to win with an average of 9 million primetime viewers to 8.9 million. That tight “W” came in the rare season when NBC had both the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics.
In other words, no one thought CBS would take this one — that is, no one, probably, besides Leslie Moonves.
Executive Compensation 2017: Top TV, Film and Tech Bosses Ranked by Pay (Photos)
There's no business like show business, and few bank on that fact yearly quite like Hollywood's top executives.
Scroll through our gallery for to see top TV, film and digital executives ranked by their 2017 executive compensation (updating as more companies release their top execs' packages).
Bob Bakish Viacom CEO 2016: N/A (Predecessor Philippe Dauman made $93 million, thanks to golden parachute) 2017: $20.3 Million Change: N/A
The man at the opposite end of Moonves' very long (we imagine) negotiating table. Bakish is tight with National Amusements controller Shari Redstone, and both of them want the Viacom chief to be Moonves' No. 2 should the re-merger happen.
Ted Sarandos Netflix Chief Content Officer 2016: $18.9 million 2017: $22.4 million Change: +19%
Netflix added 20 million streamers and unleashed a slew of new content in 2017, including "Icarus," the drugs-in-cycling documentary that went on to win an Oscar. At the same time, its share price jumped 50 percent (before rocketing in 2018). Sarandos should take a bow -- and buy a very nice villa in the Mediterranean with his raise.
Reed Hastings Netflix President, Chairman and CEO 2016: $23.2 million 2017: $24.4 million Change: +5%
The Netflix head honcho joined the billionaire's club for the first time in 2017, thanks in large part to the company's gamble on original content paying off in spades. He's not taking a victory lap yet, though, with the streaming giant still firmly set on taking over Hollywood. At CodeCon 2017, he said he's always telling his content team to "get more aggressive," rather than "drive toward conformity."
Steve Burke NBCUniversal CEO 2016: $46.07 million 2017: $46.5 million Change: +0.9%
Burke's overall take for 2017 was roughly flat compared with 2016, but the NBCUniveral CEO managed to again bring in more than his boss at parent company Comcast.
Jeff Bewkes Time Warner CEO 2016: $32.6 million 2017: $49 million Change: +50%
Bewkes damn near matched his entire 2016 pay in 2017 stock options. Sometimes it's not so terrible for your company to be bought out. (You know, if the DOJ allows it.) Half of the Bewkes stock haul covers 2018, too -- an incentive to stick around through this merger.
Leslie Moonves CBS Chairman, President and CEO 2016: $69.6 million 2017: $69.3 million Change: No material change
CBS has been "America's Most-Watched Network" for more than a decade under Moonves, but is any amount of money worth that headache that this possible realignment with Viacom comes with? OK, still yes.