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When Kelly Kahl sits in on pitches this coming development season, it will be an introduction for many. The seasoned CBS executive, who’s spent his entire career working for CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves, has been more of an internal figure than a Hollywood one — most notably charged with fine-tuning the network’s schedule.
But that will soon change. With his appointment as the new CBS Entertainment president, replacing exiting Glenn Geller, Kahl is now one of the leading programming executives in television and the de facto spokesperson for his Big Four network. Kahl brings with him 21 years of experience at America’s most-watched network, a resume marked by a steady rise up the corporate ladder (and some notable moonlighting) as well as a fun reputation for his deep love of Wisconsin sports.
Since many in the industry may still only know him by name, here are a few other things about him.
1. He is yet another Moonves loyalist
Kahl has been with CBS’ top boss with little interruption since 1990, when he joined erstwhile studio Lorimar Television as a research intern. With the 1993 combination of Lorimar and Warner Bros. operations, he followed Moonves again to serve as director of network research at Warner Bros. Television. When Moonves was named president of CBS Entertainment in 1995, Kahl joined the network six months later. The two have remained tight at each stage. “Leslie called me “kid” for three years,” Kahl told The Hollywood Reporter for a 2013 oral history of Lorimar, adding of the culture that Moonves had fostered: “Even though I was a peon, there weren’t a whole lot of rules or hierarchy. You could talk to anybody in the halls. I remember when all the Rodney King riots came down and everyone was running for home, I wanted to go to work because that’s where I felt really comfortable. The city’s burning and I want to go to work because it felt like that was the safe place to be.”
2. His purview has long extended outside of just scheduling
With over two decades at the network under his belt, Kahl’s rise has been as steady as CBS’ schedule. He’s held multiple posts, including senior vp program planning and scheduling and, most recently, senior executive vp of CBS Primetime. Kahl developed a reputation for working with the network’s incremental lineup shifts and building new nights, one reason why he’s also had scheduling oversight for corporate sibling The CW and sits on the board of cable network Pop. Kahl annually unveils the new broadcast fall schedule with Moonves to the press and, this year, took the Carnegie Hall stage for the first time to go through the schedule with Madison Avenue buyers at CBS’ upfront presentation. That deft performance is said to be one of the factors in his promotion.
3. He has some film cred, too
In recent years, Kahl has dabbled in film — executive producing three independent features, the first two of which have premiered on Lifetime. His 2014 foray Return to Zero went to Lifetime after a launch at the Rome International Film Festival, becoming the cable network’s first simultaneous international release. It went on to score a WGA Awards nomination for Original Long Form and an Emmy nom for lead Minnie Driver. 2016’s Sister Cities, also from director Sean Hanish, followed — and Michelle Monaghan, Alfred Molina, Peter Krause, Alfre Woodard and Common recently joined their third collaboration, Saint Judy.
4. He’s got a sports-centric social media persona
To know Kahl is to know his love of Wisconsin sports. The executive is a noted Green Bay Packers enthusiast — see this franchise sit-down with him from early in 2017 — and a fan of his alma mater, The University of Wisconsin Badgers. Kahl’s takes on sports, TV and other topics can be found on the relatively prolific and pseudo-anonymous Twitter handle @calibadger. But don’t expect to see the same churn from him moving forward. Rising to the top executive suite usually coincides with a quieter social media presence.
5. He also owns a bar in the South Bay
Independent film is not Kahl’s only side hustle. He’s also a partner in South Bay sports bar The Underground. The Hermosa Beach joint, a destination for L.A.-based Packers fans, is two blocks from the beach on Hermosa Avenue and, despite it’s name, is not actually in a basement. As one enthusiastic Yelper (four out of five stars) sums it up, “Nachos are huge, bartenders are mellow, the whole place has a nice vibe.”
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