CBS, Looking To Stand Tall, Adds Four New Shows

"There goes four tall gentiles," said Les Moonves, chairman of CBS Corp, watching CBS Sports' Phil Simms and Jim Nance, and NFL quarterbacks Payton and Eli Manning, strolling off the stage at the network's fall programming presentation at Carnegie Hall yesterday.

CBS has even more of those gentiles--in different sizes.  Jews, too.  Earlier in the day Moonves was asked in a press conference what his great uncle and Israel founder, David Ben-Gurion, would have liked on the CBS lineup. 

"'The Unit,'" he said. "Remember. He was a warrior."

But it's the number four that looks to bring religion this season to CBS: CBS says it only needs four new shows for next year--one of the smallest groups of new shows for a network's fall launch in some time.

All this will indeed be a tall order for CBS if it wants to finally achieve a solid No. 1 status among 18-49 viewers.  Other networks have a different formula to climb that hill: ABC, aggressively, believes it needs nine new shows to do the trick. NBC will do seven new ones (eight if you consider "Sunday Night Football").



Fox will do five. Like CBS, Fox too says its slim new load is a result of its stability as a network.

Another key to this upfront doesn't have to do with religion, genetic makeup, or even the number four. It's the number 2.6, said David Poltrack, president of CBS Vision and executive vice president of research and marketing for CBS Corp.

That's the average number of new fall network shows--for all broadcast networks--that had higher ratings than the previous fall time period ratings. It's important because that data gives a network a true indication about its programming direction--at least early into the new season.

Over the past number of years, CBS has actually had a better average than most networks in this programming area--a 3.3 average of shows that outperform their previous time period data. NBC has been at 2.4; ABC has had a 1.4 average.

ABC had one of its best years in 2004--the year of "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost"--when it had four shows that exceeded the previous year's time period rating. CBS's best year was with six in 2000.  

But with only four to count on, CBS would need a miracle to get all its new efforts to outperform the previous year's programs.  It could use a little prayer now--in a church or synagogue, tall or short.

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