(CBS 11) – We are not too far from the network “upfront” meetings whereby the network entertainment executives present their fall schedules to their advertisers. And for some reason that made me think of the late CBS programming executive Mike Dann.
Born in Detroit on September 21, 1921, he joined CBS in the late 1950s from NBC. His approach was really very simple: programs that appealed to a mass audience first, then concern himself with audience demographics. He was Vice President/Programming for the CBS Television Network from 1963-1970. Under his watchful eye, viewers were entertained with high quality shows like CBS Playhouse and 60 Minutes, yet he was responsible for shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres. Dann personally didn’t care for these shows but he scheduled them correctly and they worked for CBS. He had excellent instincts.
His biggest challenge was to beat Bonanza on NBC. Airing against it was The Garry Moore Show, which never really got any traction. CBS Chairman/CEO William S. Paley directed him to remove the Moore Show and do something else. As the story goes, Dann calls the William Morris Agency and what did they offer him? The Smothers Brothers!
While the show would be rather tame on network television today, that was not the case in 1967. The show was a hit on CBS but their material worried the CBS Standards & Practices department and as a result, there were problems getting material cleared by the network. Keep in mind that this occurred during the Vietnam War which was unpopular, and also in an presidential election year: 1968. From the time CBS cancelled the show and until their last airing in June 1969, the show’s ratings remained huge to the finish.
Dann is also credited for his expertise in programming scheduling, specifically “hammocking” and “tent-pole” programming, which is still used today as a way to schedule a weaker show before or after a very strong show. Dann did this early on with a show called “December Bride” which was scheduled around I Love Lucy. But once I Love Lucy ended in 1957 in original episodes, December Bride’s ratings plummeted.
In 1970, CBS Network President Robert Wood hired programming executive Fred Silverman who replaced Dann. Silverman took the network in a different direction, cancelled all of the rural comedies, and replaced them with shows like All In The Family. Dann then spent part of his career at the Children’s Television Workshop.
Today, Kelly Kahl is President of CBS Entertainment, a longtime TV programming executive with Lorimar, Warner Brothers and CBS. Noriko Kelley is the Executive Vice President Of Programming, Planning, and Scheduling for the CBS Television Network.
Dann passed away on May 27, 2016.
Enjoy today clip with the late Mike Dann. What a great network programming executive.