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The Competitiveness Of Network TV Programming

By Ken Foote, CBSDFW.COM

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Yesterday, CBS pulled one of its new fall prime time shows, “Made In Jersey,” effective immediately, after only two airings.

Now, you may think, “Well, gee, can’t you stick with it longer to give viewers a chance to find it?” A valid question for sure. But in today’s competitive prime time environment and with three out of four homes having cable or satellite that provides access to hundreds of channels, a show’s ratings performance is scrutinized today more than ever, especially considering the cost of producing these shows. Long gone are the days where a show would have 39 originals from September to May then 13 repeats over the summer. This rather abrupt programming change reminded me of a story in CBS’s rich history.

The CBS Television Network is one of the oldest and most successful divisions within our company since it started in 1945. Except for a handful of seasons, CBS has been the #1 television network in America. During the 1960s, Mike Dann was the CBS executive in charge of network programming. Each week, Dann would ride the elevator at the CBS Headquarters, colloquially known as “Black Rock” as it was constructed with black granite, to visit with CBS Chairman William S. Paley about how the network did in the Nielsen ratings for the previous week.

The story goes (paraphrased somewhat) that Dann started off his report with the phrase, “Mr. Chairman, we had a good week last week! We won 7 of the top 10 shows.” Paley just stared at him for a moment and said, “Don’t tell me good news. I can’t do anything about that. Tell me bad news. Maybe I can help.” The next week, Dann meets with Paley again and starts his weekly ratings report with the statement, “Mr. Chairman, we didn’t have a good week. We only won 9 out of the top 10 shows.” Reportedly, Paley replied, “Now you’re talking!” and added, “That damn NBC always holds out for one show!”

Beginning Friday, November 2, CBS’s hit reality series, “Undercover Boss,” returns to the Friday night lineup at 7pm CT. “CSI: NY” will move back to 8pm CT this Friday. Between now and November 2, the 7pm CT time period will be scheduled with episodes of “NCIS” and “Hawaii Five-0.” We can always count on Jethro Gibbs and Steve McGarrett, anytime, anywhere!

See you next time.

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