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As part of a new, multiple-year agreement, CBS TV Studios and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will team to develop and produce scripted, unscripted and documentary content for linear and streaming platforms.
Under the deal, creative leaders from CBS TV Studios will work with the civil rights group to establish a dedicated team of executives and an infrastructure to acquire, develop and produce programming. The goal will be to produce premium content while also expanding the number of diverse voices telling inclusive stories that increase the visibility and impact of Black artists.
Included in the deal is a commitment to not only develop for CBS-owned platforms but also to third-party platforms, meaning CBS/NAACP would own content that would be supplied to other buyers like Netflix and Amazon.
“An important way to diversify and grow our storytelling is to expand our horizons beyond the traditional studio-producer system,” said CBS Entertainment Group CEO George Cheeks. “There is no better partner than the NAACP — the preeminent civil rights organization in our country — to help us find, develop and tell these inclusive stories. At the same time, this is a strategic opportunity for CBS to build upon as well as re-imagine our pipeline for existing and emerging creative talent.”
The CBS/NAACP deal arrives shortly after Cheeks unveiled a larger plan to spend a quarter of its 2021-22 broadcast season development budget on projects created or co-created by writers who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color. The media titan also hopes to have all of its writers room be comprised of at least 40 percent BIPOC representation, with that figure growing to 50 percent for the following season.
“In this moment of national awakening, the time has never been better to further tell stories of the African American experience,” said NAACP CO Derrick Johnson. “Programming and content have the power to shape perspectives and drive conversations around critical issues. This partnership with CBS allows us to bring compelling and important content to a broad audience.”
The push comes as the industry is at a reckoning amid increased calls to improve representation in all areas amid the Black Lives Matter movement. CBS famously made headlines just four years ago after a seeming lack of diversity and female-driven projects for the 2016-17 season. Of CBS’ eight new series for that season, only one was female-driven (Doubt) and only one featured a black lead (Training Day with newcomer Justin Cornwell having starred opposite Bill Paxton). CBS has made strides in the years since and its current scripted lineup features such inclusive programming as All Rise, Evil, Bob Hearts Abishola and Magnum P.I., among others.
Cheeks, who is biracial and gay, was named chairman and CEO of CBS Entertainment in January, replacing Joe Ianniello. Cheeks had been a rising star at NBCUniversal, where he most recently worked alongside industry titan Bonnie Hammer in overseeing the company’s combined studio. Before that, he was co-president of NBC Entertainment. He started at CBS in March and, if this week’s announcements are any indication of his priorities, he has made diversity and inclusion his top priority.
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