CBS Retooling Long-Form Strategy

Jul 19, 2005  •  Post A Comment

In the wake of the success of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” CBS will focus more on younger- and male-skewing “popcorn movies” for its “CBS Sunday Movie” to better program against the hit show, said Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, at the network’s executive session Tuesday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour.

Ms. Tassler said the fall movie schedule would be “heavy with action and suspense” and be a good fit from a promotional standpoint “in our Sunday NFL broadcasts.”

The airline disaster movie “Mayday” is scheduled to air Oct. 2 while “The Hunt for the BTK Strangler” is set for Oct. 9. The terrorist-plot-in-a-football-stadium thriller “Time Bomb” is scheduled for Oct. 16, with “Vampire Bats” set to run Oct. 30 and the four-hour “Category 7: The End of the World” airing in two parts Nov. 6 and 13. “Martha Behind Bars,” which profiles the trial and conviction of home d%E9;cor empress Martha Stewart, will open the Sunday movie season on Sept. 25.

CBS is also considering a series pickup of its drama pilot “Love Monkey,” Ms. Tassler said. The Sony Pictures TV/Paramount Network Television production is “a strong possibility for midseason,” she said. “Monkey,” which is based on Kyle Smith’s book about a music executive who gets fired and then dumped by his girlfriend, had been in contention for the fall 2005-06 schedule but was not announced as a pickup at CBS’s May upfront presentation for advertisers.

For its second season, Ms. Tassler announced “CSI: NY” would be getting a new cast member and some changes to its tone, with the show appearing “more vibrant” and incorporating “more elements of humor.”

“We’re upbeat about our continuing evolution of ‘CSI: NY,'” Ms. Tassler said, noting that the “CSI: NY” offices will move out from underground to above ground and that series regular Hill Harper will move from the morgue into the field to create more interaction with the show’s other characters.

Ms. Tassler said she was “pleased with the quality” of the network’s new reality series “Rock Star: INXS,” which has been a solid performer but not a breakout hit like ABC’s summer reality offering “Dancing With the Stars.”

“It’s not a broad-based ratings success,” she said of the show, “but it’s doing OK with younger viewers.”

She compared “Rock Star” to “Big Brother,” which she said became one of CBS’s “core reality franchises” over the course of time.

Ms. Tassler’s presentation marked CBS’s first press tour in 10 years without Viacom co-Chief Operating Officer Leslie Moonves leading the network’s executive session.

Despite Mr. Moonves’ responsibilities as the head of Viacom’s newly formed CBS Corp., Ms. Tassler said he would remain involved with the network.

“He is as involved as ever,” she said. “CBS is the jewel in his crown.”

Ms. Tassler fielded numerous questions about the cancellation of family drama “Joan of Arcadia,” calling the decision to pull the Friday night show from CBS’s schedule “a big disappointment” to the network and to her personally.

Despite being on the air two seasons, Ms. Tassler said, the show had lost 24 percent of its audience halfway through its first season.

“No matter what we did they didn’t come back,” she said of the show’s initial viewers.

Ms. Tassler said the overall theme from last season was the creative strength of the broadcast networks as a whole over the cable networks.

“Network television turned a corner this year,” she said. “We reclaimed the water cooler from cable.”