Broadcast TV: CBS

Net has emerged as dominant first among young viewers

Don’t tell Leslie Moonves the TV business is going to hell.

While his colleagues are moaning about the loss of young males and increasing cable competish, the CBS chairman-CEO enjoyed perhaps his best year as head of the Eye net.

CBS has emerged as a dominant first among young viewers and, more importantly, is making gains in key demos. After renewing hits “CSI: Miami” and “Without a Trace” in May, net added “Joan of Arcadia,” “Cold Case” and “2 and a Half Men” to its hit list last fall.

What’s more, the Eye became the overall Thursday leader at the start of 2003 — and challenged NBC for the demo crown by year’s end. “No question it’s a tough environment out there,” Moonves says. “But we’re up in every demo category and we’re very pleased with our performance.”

Other areas of CBS are doing OK, though perhaps not quite as stellar as primetime. The news division celebrated rising numbers for “The Early Show,” but both it and “The CBS Evening News” are stuck in third. The NCAA basketball tourney was a bummer, but pro football numbers shone. And, natch, the controversy over “The Reagans” is something Moonves would love to forget.

Overall, Moonves says the 2003 perf means the net won’t have to make a lot of changes in 2004. “We’ve got a great foundation.”

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