CBS' Fall Season: 2 New TV Shows, Slower Upfront Ad Market

As with other TV networks, CBS enters the upfront advertising market assuming deal-making could be a drawn-out affair, due to industry-shaking COVID-19 disruptions.

Jo Ann Ross, president/chief advertising revenue officer of ViacomCBS Domestic Advertising Sales, tells Television News Daily she is flexible: “We are going to open for business; we are going to have conversations when clients want to.”

Typically, the upfront ad market takes place in June/July, starting after TV networks show off new fall programming in mid-May. 

But media agency executives believe not all upfront TV advertisers will be ready to make deals before the fall season starts, with some deals being made in the third quarter before the season begins. The remainder are done in the fourth quarter for a January start.



“I think it’s going to be a mix of both,” says Ross. “Hard to tell what percent of anyone’s inventory is going to get sold.” 

According to some media executives, perhaps 30% of marketers' upfront deals have been done for a season’s worth of TV inventory before the fall, versus a typical range of 70% to 75%.

Still, CBS may be more optimistic -- from its program production side -- that its two new TV scripted first-run shows, and the rest of its fall lineup, will be ready to go this fall.

Ross concedes the fall season might not start exactly on its traditional date — the third week in September. “Maybe it starts 10/1.”

In addition, Ross estimates: “We are going to see a lot more 'one off' [deals]," single client-by-client upfront commitments versus a traditional "roll up" of a media agency’s full roster of upfront TV clients looking to make deals with a network simultaneously. 

Regarding third-quarter cancellations, where national TV advertisers are allowed to cancel up to 50% of their upfront deals made a year ago, CBS -- like many other networks -- granted extensions. Ross says: “We are pleased they are better than expected -- and we are looking forward to getting into third-quarter scatter [sales].”

Concerning the weak second-quarter period -- especially March and April at the start of the pandemic disruption -- she says: "We had a handful of clients asking for relief. A handful of those clients are now coming back into scatter.”

While categories such as movies, travel, and automotives have been virtually off the air, Ross says other categories including pharmaceutical, financial, insurance, consumer package groups, and bigger retailers (Walmart, Target), are still running schedules on CBS.

Going forward, Ross says media agencies are looking more closely at ViacomCBS’ digital, streaming and OTT platforms -- including CBS All Access and Pluto TV.

Boosting CBS’ fall content -- and hopefully encouraging demand from advertisers -- is the strong likelihood that the major TV sports provider, the NFL, will be back on the air come September.

For prime time, it plans to add two new shows: “B Positive,” a new comedy from veteran producer Chuck Lorre, and a new version of the 1980’s CBS drama “The Equalizer."

“B Positive” is about a therapist and newly divorced dad faced with finding a kidney donor when he runs into a woman from his past who volunteers her own kidney. “The Equalizer” stars Queen Latifah as an average single mom who is also an “anonymous guardian angel and defender of the downtrodden.”

One midseason TV drama, “Clarice,” is also scheduled. It continues the story from the 1993 movie “The Silence of the Lambs,” following the life of FBI Agent Clarice Starling.

CBS Television Network 2020-2021 Prime-Time Schedule

(N=New, Ntp=New Time Period)

All Times   ET/PT Monday

8:00-8:30 p.m.         "The Neighborhood"

8:30-9:00 p.m.         "Bob ♥ Abishola"

9:00-10:00 pm         "All Rise"

10:00-11:00 pm       "Bull"


8:00-9:00 p.m.         "NCIS"

9:00-10:00 p.m.       "FBI"

10:00-11:00 p.m.     "FBI: Most Wanted"


8:00-9:00 p.m.         "Survivor"

9:00-10:00 p.m.       "The Amazing Race" (Ntp)

10:00-11:00 p.m.     "Seal Team" (Ntp)


8:00-8:30 p.m.         "Young Sheldon"

8:30-9:00 p.m.         "B Positive" (N)

9:00-9:30 p.m.         "Mom"

9:30-10:00 p.m.       "The Unicorn" (Ntp)

10:00-11:00 p.m.     "Evil"


8:00-9:00 p.m.         "Macgyver"

9:00-10:00 p.m.       "Magnum P.I."

10:00-11:00 p.m.     "Blue Bloods"


8:00-9:00 p.m.         "Crimetime Saturday"

9:00-10:00 p.m.       "Crimetime Saturday"

10:00-11:00 p.m.     "48 Hours"


7:00-8:00 p.m.         "60 Minutes"

8:00-9:00 p.m.         "The Equalizer" (N)

9:00-10:00 p.m.       "NCIS: Los Angeles"

10:00-11:00 p.m.     "NCIS: New Orleans"

Next story loading loading..