CBS Does Well -- In A Marketplace That Isn't

It must kill Les Moonves.

In the face of an almost certain bad TV economy continuing well into 2009, the CBS network has had one strong season -- relatively speaking, considering the writers' strike of a year ago and the network' series of misfires from a year ago like "Viva Laughlin," and considering where traditional live TV viewing has been headed overall.

Not only has CBS maintained a strong position among 18-49 so far this season, as well as its top position among overall viewers -- but consider this: On Tuesday night CBS had its best total viewers results since 1995.

That is 13 years ago, for the mathematically challenged.

Even though Tuesday night CBS wasn't positioned against many top original episodes, to have any better results than you did over a dozen years ago -- in any sort of demographic or programming metric -- deserves some credit.

TV networks aren't dead, says CBS Chief Executive Moonves. Remember he went so far as to openly compliment Jeff Zucker and NBC Universal on their surprisingly big Beijing Olympics ratings this past summer, which bolstered his argument that TV networks are still a good business to be in.

Those TV surprises will only get tougher to come by. A number of industry surveys expect all TV advertising revenues to be down anywhere from 7% to 10% in 2009.

So translating the big rating success stories of new shows like "The Mentalist" and "Eleventh Hour," as well as CBS' still growing Monday comedies, into big TV marketing dollars might be a tough job.

CBS is down single-digit percentages in viewing from a year ago -- while other networks are down much more, in double-digit territory. What's important here is how well CBS works its mojo in pitching TV marketers for next season -- using TV advertising-friendly words like "stable" and "steady."

For troubled TV marketers, any relatively consistent media performance -- in a business that isn't known for it -- might be a welcome relief



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