CBS Chief Leslie Moonves Arrives at Upfront to Standing Ovation: “So How’s Your Week Been?”

Les Moonves - H 2016
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Les Moonves - H 2016

Embattled CBS CEO Leslie Moonves took the stage at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday to thunderous applause, followed by a long and raucous standing ovation from the packed theater gathered for the network's annual upfront presentation.

It appeared, if ever so briefly, that he was holding back tears in what could very well be Moonves’ last upfront presentation atop the company he has poured his life into for more than 20 years. At about the same moment, a judge in a Delaware court granted a temporary restraining order barring any interference by Shari Redstone — CBS’ majority stakeholder.

When the applause finally died down, the exec, having composed himself, quipped: “So how’s your week going?”

Moonves, noting that he makes the same promise every year, said he'd keep his remarks brief — only this year, he added that he really meant it. The crowd laughed again, before the CEO moved into a pitch about the lingering value of broadcast TV and CBS Corp.'s vast portfolio. "At the CBS Corp.," he said, "our broadcast network is the crown jewel."

Moonves has long been broadcast's biggest cheerleader, even more so as the industry has been roiled — and seen its profits shrink — thanks to digital disruption. “I personally consider CBS to be the greatest story ever told. The true survivor of this crazy business we all love,” said the exec, who joined the company in 1995 as president of CBS Entertainment. “How many times have you heard that this great, vital, powerful medium is a thing of the past, going to be replaced by everything from satellite dishes to your toaster? At CBS, we love winning, but we know lasting success is not only about winning now, but preparing ourselves to win in the future.”

Moonves' arrival onstage came after the CEO was a no-show earlier in the day at the network’s press breakfast, a long-standing tradition that is informally titled "Lox With Les." His entertainment chief, Kelly Kahl, and his programmer, Thom Sherman, attempted to fill the void, acknowledging that "Toast With Tom" and "Coffee With Kelly" didn’t have the same appeal.