NEW YORK — Advertising agency people left Wednesday’s CBS upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall with a smile on their faces and in general agreement with CEO Les Moonves’ assessment that CBS has a better base schedule compared to a year ago.
Moonves said that CBS’ scheduling consistency has helped it narrow the ratings gap between his network and leader NBC, and it was key to CBS’ strategy next fall to lead off Monday through Wednesday night with the same shows as this season.
Monday will once again feature “Cosby” at 8 p.m.; Tuesday will lead off with the drama “JAG”; and “The Nanny” will once again kick off Wednesday.
Now that CBS has stopped its ratings erosion, Moonves said next season’s goal is to broaden the network’s viewership by attracting more men and more young adults. The network is counting heavily on the return of the NFL on Sunday afternoons to bring in more young men.
“Young men deserted us four years ago,” said Moonves, referring to the year CBS lost pro football. “Our network got a lot older and a lot more female.”
Media buyers said that while CBS still has a big challenge in lowering the age of its viewers, the network has a few more ratings success stories to use as building blocks than one might think.
“They have a better foundation to work from than people realize,” said Steve Grubbs, executive VP/director of national broadcast for BBDO. “People think of them as the No. 3 or No. 4 network, but in reality they’ve made a lot of gains.”
In particular, Grubbs said “Diagnosis Murder” has done very well against NBC’s powerhouse Thursday lineup. Though it went up against “Seinfeld” in its first half-hour, “Diagnosis Murder” ranked number 22 for the TV season.
Grubbs also praised CBS’ Sunday lineup — which brings back “60 Minutes,” “Touched By an Angel” and the “CBS Sunday Movie” — and the Friday schedule, which fumbled at the outset last fall but then clicked with “Kids Say the Darndest Things” and “Candid Camera” from 8 to 9 p.m.
“Candid Camera” took on added significance for Grubbs when CBS’ upfront presentation cut to what Moonves announced were going to be clips from the hidden camera show. What appeared on the bigscreen were clips of several high-ranking media buyers sitting down at a CBS radio station to be interviewed live about TV networks’ strategies.
When Grubbs was asked by the interviewer, “How about that new Clint Eastwood series on CBS?” the unknowing media buyer mumbled how good an idea it was, and did not admit that he had not heard about the Eastwood show, which was of course fictitious. The crowd of 3,000 agency folk in attendance got a good laugh from this segment.
In regard to CBS’ fall schedule, Grubbs said it made sense for CBS to launch its new comedies and dramas behind the network’s established shows. “Cosby” will provide the lead-in to the new sitcom “The King of Queens,” followed by the returning “Everybody Loves Raymond” and then another new sitcom, “The Benben Show.”
The ad agency execs at CBS’ upfront have not yet seen the network’s seven new series, and there was very mixed opinion about which shows looked good or bad from the clips shown Wednesday. Several media buyers said the new “L.A. Docs,” a drama about a private medical practice, had promise while others said it looked dull.
“The Benben Show,” a vehicle for Brian Benben, the star of HBO’s “Dream On,” received the most positive buzz, while “Buddy Faro,” a stylish private detective hour, earned the most thumbs down.
“Martial Law,” a kung-fu action hour that will lead in to “Walker, Texas Ranger” on Saturday night, also divided the crowd. One buyer said he liked it but that it would not fit in with the middle-America appeal of CBS’ Saturday night lineup.
Moonves, who mentioned the importance of the NFL to CBS time and time again during the presentation, said that “Martial Law” was designed to give CBS’ new football audience other shows to watch.
” ‘Martial Law’ wouldn’t have been on the schedule if it wasn’t for football,” said Moonves.