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CBS's top executive expects no network merger

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And Leslie Moonves feels bullish about his programming this year

Web posted on: Thursday, August 13, 1998 6:01:22 PM

From Correspondent Jim Moret

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The day has not arrived when CBS will merge into an entertainment conglomerate, according to the network's chief executive officer.

Studio affiliation can be a powerful tool for television networks, as networks like ABC, the WB and UPN have found. Only NBC and CBS remain without studio affiliation, and NBC's status may soon change, as news has surfaced that the network is looking to merge with a company that offers the Hollywood link.

But that isn't the direction that CBS is likely to take, CBS Television CEO Leslie Moonves told CNN.

"We still believe that the network business is still the best game in town," Moonves said. "Why? There is no place else that you can reach the size of audiences that you do on a weekly basis with a '60 Minutes,' with a Superbowl, with a big miniseries, with the Grammy Awards. Cable doesn't come close to doing that."

Moonves has been on something of a roll since taking over as the president of CBS Entertainment three years ago -- and he feels decidedly bullish about the upcoming season, even as he mixes some mild regrets into his shock-proof approach.


"You're in the fishbowl. Every day of your life, you get a report card. You wake up at 6:30 in the morning and you get your overnight ratings, and some days there are good days and some days there are bad days," Moonves said.

'A very high-risk business'

The CBS executive has had some good days lately. CBS moved into second place last season, and he expects much from new shows this season -- though he noted it's still "a very high-risk business, and for a show to make it into its second year is very unusual."

Which new shows get a mention from CBS's risk-taker? "L.A. Docs," the romantic comedy "To Have and to Hold," "The Benben Show" and "Buddy Faro."

Moonves had a show with a number of fans -- "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" -- and he recently canceled it, taking much flak from fans and the media. He said he felt like he was in "a lose-lose situation" among these volunteer advisers on what shows CBS should have in order to reach the largest possible audience.

"Despite what people think, network executives and network presidents to have feelings. To cancel a show that ... has been a popular show is a very difficult decision," Moonves said.

Aiming for younger audiences

Even though he canceled "Dr. Quinn," Moonves says CBS has shows for younger audiences, naming "Touched by an Angel," "JAG," "Early Edition" and "Promise Land." He said National Football League games and shows like "Martial Law" will draw young male viewers.

Moonves said CBS will be a "broad-caster" in the sense of seeking a broad audience. He has launched a crusade to get advertisers to place greater value on shows like "Touched by an Angel," which attract viewers 50 and older.

"A lot of the audiences are older audiences," he said. "We are not getting paid enough for those people."

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