CBS: Mixed Signals
March 2, 2008 8:50 PM
CBS, once known as the Tiffany Network owing to founder William S. Paley’s commitment to high-quality programming, made a pretty clean break with its illustrious heritage last week: It announced a multiyear agreement to televise four two-hour mixed martial arts specials a year in prime time—making it the first of the big broadcast networks to delve into controversial MMA territory (of course, CBS’ corporate cable sibling Showtime has been carrying such events for more than a year).
So what gives? Demos, darling.
As a CBS rep explained, “This is an organized sport with strict rules and guidelines that attracts world-class athletes, young upscale audiences and mainstream advertisers. … CBS is tremendously proud of its heritage, a part of which includes taking chances on programming that many consider controversial but eventually became mainstream, such as ‘Survivor.’”
And then this coda, lest Blink be getting all verklempt about the standards of the good old days: “Mixed martial arts is also somewhat of a ‘back to the future’ programming move, as all or most of the broadcast networks programmed boxing in prime time in the ’50s or ’60s.”
— Tom Gilbert