×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Q&A: Leslie Moonves Talks Leadership Transition at CBS Entertainment

CBS Corp. chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves was the matchmaker behind the pairing of Kelly Kahl and Thom Sherman as the new leaders of CBS Entertainment. Moonves spoke with Variety about the whirlwind process of the past two weeks as he was forced to quickly find a replacement for Glenn Geller, who resigned as CBS Entertainment president for health reasons. On Tuesday, longtime CBS exec Kahl was named entertainment president, reporting to Moonves, with CW alum Sherman overseeing all program development as senior exec VP, reporting to Kahl.

When did you begin thinking about finding a successor for Glenn?

When Glenn left (on medical leave in March) I was very concerned. He’s a young man and having a heart problem is not a normal thing for a young man. I really was concerned about him. During the pilot screening and scheduling process (earlier this month) everybody pretty much left him alone which was the right thing to do. As soon as it was over and we all got back from New York, Glenn came to see me and said ‘I don’t think it’s the right thing for me to do to come back.’ I totally respected his decision. It’s unfortunate but totally understandable why he didn’t want to come back.

The last couple of months have been so hectic for all of us but there was a part of me that thought he may not want to come back. I knew we couldn’t just assume on that on June 1, Glenn is back. I started thinking about it and I met with a few outside people on very general terms. I was thinking of this possibility.

One of the people I was thinking of was Thom. I like and respect Thom a lot. I really have enjoyed working with him. He’s a terrific guy and a wonderful creative executive. After Glenn and I met, I thought, ‘OK, what’s the right move to make?’

Were you thinking of teaming Thom and Kelly from the start?

You know how close I’ve been to Kelly all these years. People are attributing (the promotion) to the fact that he did great on stage at Carnegie Hall (for CBS’ May 17 upfront) which he absolutely did, but it’s a lot more than that. I’ve always admired Kelly as being a leader, somebody people respect and look up to. Kelly’s got a great skill set, Thom’s got a different great skill set. I thought ‘Wouldn’t that be a good team together?’ I discussed it with (CBS Television Studios president) Dave Stapf. The good news about this place is I have a lot of people I’m close to and I trust. He thought it was a good idea. I then had a conversation with Kelly the day after I met with Glenn. I said ‘I have an idea, what do you think of it?’ Kelly and Thom like each other. Kelly’s very active in the CW as well and he and Thom know each other well. He liked the idea. I met with Thom and he liked the idea. The two of them had a three-hour lunch last week and we put the wheels in motion to get the deals done over the weekend. They hit the ground running today.

I’m guessing you spoke to CW president Mark Pedowitz before recruiting Sherman? [CBS and Warner Bros. are partners in the CW.]

Pedowitz was terrific. He’s worked with Thom for a number of years. He knows he’s the real deal. And he realized this was a great opportunity for him. (Warner Bros. chairman-CEO) Kevin Tsujihara was also a great partner in this. Obviously before I made the offer to Thom not only did I need Mark’s blessing but also Kevin’s. He’s my partner over there. And Kevin said the same thing. We can’t stand in the way of this guy getting this great opportunity. I’m very appreciative to both of them for that.

What do you think you’ll achieve with this pairing of skill sets that you didn’t have in previous incarnations of the job?

Kelly has great programming skills, business acumen and leadership abilities. He’s well-liked across the entertainment division and he works with other divisions — news, sports and sales. He’s just a well-liked guy within our organization. Thom is a scrapper, a real developer and a go-getter with the (talent) agencies. I’ve seen him develop all sorts of different types of programs and do them really well. I admire his abilities, having seen them close up. What they both do really well doesn’t overlap. People internally are already saying this is great. And they’re both really good guys. You know how important the team is to this place. … When this all came together at the end of last week it was a relief. I didn’t have a lot of great solutions. When this clicked it really felt good.

Have you given Kelly and Thom any specific marching orders for development or other priorities?

We’ve been programming CBS similarly for a long time. Kelly knows what works here. Thom has some ideas about expanding. One of the things we talked about was expanding the palette of CBS. He comes from a place where the programming is slightly different. We’ve had some very interesting philosophical conversations. But my watchword to them both is: Make it good and they’ll find us.

More TV

  • R. Kelly

    R. Kelly Accusers Detail Abuse, Reveal Evidence on 'Dateline'

    The continuing controversy surrounding R. Kelly, including allegations of sexual abuse by a number of women over three decades, was the focus of Friday’s episode of “Dateline.” Speaking to accusers Sparkle, Jerhonda Pace and parents Tim and Jonjelyn Savage, among others, NBC’s Andrea Canning heard more harrowing tales of abduction and sexual misconduct on the part [...]

  • Kenan Thompson

    NBC Orders Comedy Pilots 'Saving Kenan' and 'Like Magic'

    NBC has ordered comedies “Saving Kenan” and “Like Magic” to pilot. “Saving Kenan” is a single-camera comedy starring “Saturday Night Live” veteran Kenan Thompson as a “newly widowed dad determined to be everything for his kids while begrudgingly letting his persistent father-in-law become more involved in their lives.” Jackie Clarke will serve as writer and [...]

  • The First -- "The Choice" -

    'The First' Canceled at Hulu After One Season

    Hulu has grounded the space exploration drama “The First” after one season, Variety has confirmed. The series hailed from Beau Willimon and starred Sean Penn and Natascha McElhone in Penn’s first regular television role. “The First” was set in the near future and followed the first human mission to Mars. Hulu gave the show a straight-to-series order in [...]

  • Nicole Maines Supergirl Trans Hollywood Portrait

    TV Roundup: 'Supergirl' Drops First Look at Nicole Maines as TV's First Trans Superhero

    In today’s TV News Roundup, The CW releases a first look at Nicole Maines on “Supergirl” and Variety unveils an exclusive look at Gabriel Iglesias’ new comedy special.  FIRST LOOKS truTV has released the first trailer for season 2 of Emmy-nominated series “At Home with Amy Sedaris.” The variety sketch comedy returns Tuesday, Feb. 19 at [...]

  • The Beatles Eight Days a Week

    Imagine's Documentary Arm Sets First-Look Pact With Apple (EXCLUSIVE)

    Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries has set a first-look pact with Apple to develop non-fiction features and series. The deal comes as Imagine is investing heavily in the premium non-fiction arena. The company in June recruited RadicalMedia veteran Justin Wilkes to head Imagine Documentaries as president. The deal suggests that Apple sees docu [...]

  • Fyre Festival Documentaries: The 10 Most

    Fyre Festival Documentaries: The 10 Most Outrageous Moments

    It is perhaps only fitting that two documentaries about the disastrous Fyre Festival, one of the most high-profile fraudulent failures in history, would arrive during the same week — a fitting cap on a tragicomedy of errors that, as both films outline in excruciating detail, unfolded like a slow-motion plane crash in the spring of [...]

  • Walt Disney HQ LA

    Disney Unveils Financial Data for DTC Unit, Sets April 11 for Investor Presentation

    Disney has rejiggered its business segments for earnings reporting to make room for the new unit housing its global streaming operations. Disney on Friday released restated earnings for fiscal 2018, 2017 and 2016 to give investors and financial analysts better visibility into its spending on the launch of the Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and other [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content