Moonves new CBS TV prexy; Warner ankles

CBS Entertainment chief Leslie Moonves was elevated to president of CBS Television Thursday, a move that has led to the resignation of CBS TV Network president James Warner.

Moonves, 47, will continue to oversee the Eye web’s entertainment division and CBS Prods., and he’ll add responsibility for the network’s ad sales, marketing and promotion and research operations under the revamp. He will also now be in charge of CBS Enterprises, which encompasses the network’s syndication unit Eyemark Entertainment, the international sales division and licensing and merchandising .

Many of those duties were previously the domain of Peter Lund, who ankled as CBS Television and Cable Group chief in May after oversight of CBS Stations was placed under Mel Karmazin; and Warner, a relatively low-profile exec allied with Lund, whose position has now been eliminated.

CBS News prexy Andrew Heyward and Sean McManus, head of CBS Sports, will continue to report to Westinghouse CEO Michael Jordan, as will CBS Cable and the network’s affiliate relations department.

Committee duties far-ranging

In addition to the promotion, Moonves will join CBS Stations prexy Karmazin, Jordan and chief financial officer Fredric Reynolds in a new management committee to oversee CBS Corp., the new entity to be formed when parent Westinghouse Electric Corp. spins off industrial assets this fall. Duties of the new CBS executive committee have not yet been clearly defined, other than to chart the direction and growth of the company.

The expanded portfolio of Moonves — the well-regarded former head of Warner Bros. Television who joined CBS two years ago — marks the first time a West Coast exec has been named to oversee key functions such as sales, and it amounts to a major boost.

Some CBS Kremlinologists view Moonves’ move as a way for Jordan to blunt the growing power base of Karmazin, who has suggested to investors he’d like a broader role in the company. The Moonves promotion essentially makes him a co-No. 2 in command with Karmazin under Jordan.

“They’ve been building up Les Moonves over the last nine months as the visionary of the network,” said Frank Bodenchak, a Morgan Stanley analyst who follows Westinghouse and views the change as a positive.

The CBS Network, which has lost money for the past three quarters despite stable ratings, has historically separated responsibility for generating revenue from developing programs, but the new structure unifies the product with sales.

“If you’re running the network for profitability as opposed to ratings, having a key focus on ad sales is imperative as you make programming decisions related to new-series launches,” Bodenchak said.

The move also unifies most of the network’s content creation entities under Moonves. “We’re forming something like a mini-studio,” Moonves said.

Some of the functions Moonves will now oversee are handled out of New York, and Moonves will now spend a day or two in Gotham every couple of weeks. But his new responsibilities, he said, won’t in any way take his eye off his main focus: network programming.

“First and foremost is the programming,” he said. “That’s my love and my first priority.”

Affils applauded the Moonves move. “It’s irresistible to cast him in multiple roles because he’s a very talented guy,” said Alan Bell, president of Freedom Broadcasting. As for the potential distraction of added responsibilities, Bell said, “I would view it as a necessary fix rather than a distraction.”

No overhaul

Moonves said he plans no immediate changes, personnel or otherwise, at the new divisions under his supervision. The only fallout appears to be with Warner, who joined CBS in 1989 and served as prexy of CBS Enterprises and the CBS TV Stations prior to his taking the network prexy post. Warner was offered another job at the company, but he declined the offer.

Westinghouse shares gained 75¢ Thursday to $26.50 on news of the restructuring.

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