TV Upfronts: CBS Chief Leslie Moonves: 'We'll Try to be Less Smug'

The Crazy Ones Williams Gellar - H 2013

The Crazy Ones Williams Gellar - H 2013

CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves once again took issue with Jimmy Kimmel's jabs at CBS as the geriatric network. But he did admit to being “flattered” that the ABC late-night host characterized No. 1 CBS as “smug motherf----rs” at Kimmel's annual upfront routine.  

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“I guess that means we're winning,” Moonves said during the network's pre-upfront press conference Wednesday morning at CBS headquarters in New York. “We'll try to be a little less smug and a little more gracious. But that's hard for me, as you know.”

But Moonves took some shots of his own at the broadcast competition, which touted various multiplatform initiatives, granular demographic data and new measurement schemes. “Anybody who spends 20 minutes talking about multiplatform at their upfront does not have much else to sell,” said Moonves, adding that CBS beats its broadcast competition by 4 million to 5 million viewers and will finish the season as the No. 1 network among the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic for the first time in more than 10 years. It's a point Moonves is likely to make for ad buyers who will gather at the network's annual 4 p.m. EST presentation at Carnegie Hall.

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Noting that repeats of the Warner Bros. Television comedy The Big Bang Theory is the top-rated comedy on cable, Moonves added: “We are the center of the universe, this is where it all starts. The key is getting hits on this network.”

The key for CBS next season is comedy, a major priority after this season's lackluster development produced the quickly canceled Partners. Next fall, the network will bow four new comedies -- two on Monday and two on Thursday -- a hefty order for the traditionally stable network. On Monday, single-camera We Are Men, about four single guys living in a short-term apartment complex, will get the post-How I Met Your Mother slot at 8:30 p.m., while, Chuck Lorre's Mom will air at 9:30 p.m. after 2 Broke Girls. On Thursday, the Will Arnett-starrer The Millers from Greg Garcia will get a huge lead-in from Big Bang, while the Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar workplace comedy The Crazy Ones will air at 9 p.m. shifting Two and a Half Men to 9:30 p.m.

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Asked if it wasn't a lot to expect a new comedy to be slotted in the critical 9 p.m. slot, CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler said: “There's maybe one or two actors in Hollywood who can help you launch a new show at 9 o'clock. One of them is Robin Williams.”

The expansion sets up two hours of head-to-head comedy competition with NBC, which will have three new comedies and is shifting Parks and Recreation, a modestly rated critical darling, into the lead-off 8 p.m. slot.

CBS scheduling chief Kelly Kahl put the competition between Big Bang, which this season averaged 18.6 million viewers, and Parks and Recreation, which averaged 4 million, into perspective: “The difference between the two alone would be a top 10 comedy,” he said.

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