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NEW YORK — CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves made it clear Wednesday that the network would be writing upfront business that included DVR viewing.
Moonves, speaking after a morning news conference at CBS Corp. headquarters at Black Rock, said there was too much of an audience of broadcast TV’s biggest shows to leave them uncounted and the networks uncompensated for them. On Thursdays, he noted that at least 2 million more viewers were watching “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and 2.5 million were watching “Grey’s Anatomy” on a time-shifted basis beyond the live viewing.
“That’s 4.5 million people that weren’t counted last year,” Moonves said. “That’s significant.”
Moonves said that this year, with “Grey’s” and “CSI” airing head-to-head and another heavily DVR’d show, “The Office,” moving to the same time slot, it was more important than ever.
“You gotta count them,” Moonves said.
Moonves’ comments come at a time when the measurements used to determine audiences are poised to change radically. Nielsen Media Research — which is owned by the Nielsen Co., parent company of The Hollywood Reporter — is now including DVR households in its samples — and regularly reporting the extra audiences — as well as providing average commercial minute ratings to networks and advertisers.
Last year, ABC led the charge to be compensated for time-shifted viewing, but the networks’ insistence — and Madison Avenue’s adamance against it — delayed the start of upfront negotiations, and little was resolved. This year, the networks have said they want to be paid for time-shifted viewing, and they now have the tools to facilitate it. ABC said at its upfront presentation Tuesday that it would write business in multiple configurations to suit the advertisers.
Some observers in the buying community predict that it will be another long upfront as decisions are being made and the deals placed.
On another topic, Moonves declined comment about network anchorwoman Katie Couric, whose tenure so far on the “CBS Evening News With Katie Couric” has been bumpy and ratings-challenged. A published report said there had been talks that Couric would leave the anchor desk after the 2008 elections; CBS News vehemently has denied such speculation, and knowledgeable observers outside the network don’t give it credibility.
“There’s been enough written about Katie Couric,” Moonves said. “Let’s talk about our great new shows.”
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