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There’s a major change at the top of CBS.
Network entertainment president Glenn Geller is exiting his position of less than two years, with CBS’ longtime head of scheduling Kelly Kahl set to take over as CBS entertainment president and The CW’s head of development Thom Sherman set to become senior executive vp programming. The news comes two months after Geller suffered a heart attack on the job. He was expected to return Tuesday following a medical leave, but instead will move on. The network is in discussions with him about a production deal with CBS TV Studios.
Geller’s leave fell during pilot season, a particularly busy time at any broadcast network, leaving him sidelined for the May upfront. In addition to being even more hands-on than normal with the annual series selection process, multiple sources say CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves spent recent months taking exploratory meetings with a handful of potential replacements, including outside studio and cable executives. Like all matters at CBS, Moonves kept the details of said meetings close to the vest; two sources suggest he never even told those with whom he was meeting what the job was, though it had become increasingly clear in recent weeks that Geller would not return.
Ultimately, Moonves opted to select a pair of execs from within the company, a move straight out of the the CBS playbook. After all, Geller had spent nearly two decades at the network, most recently atop CBS’ current department, before replacing Nina Tassler, herself a longtime Moonves lieutenant, in the summer of 2015. Many others in top positions at CBS, including studio boss David Stapf, ad sales chief JoAnn Ross and COO Joe Ianniello, have each logged more than a decade with Moonves.
Kahl is perhaps an extreme example, having worked for Moonves for the entirety of his nearly three-decade career, first at Lorimar and later CBS. His role has continued to expand, and in May he made his Carnegie Hall debut, appearing alongside Moonves to present the network’s fall schedule to advertisers.
“This is a dynamic, talented and very experienced executive team to lead a division that will create the next generation of hits for CBS,” Moonves said Tuesday in a statement. “Kelly has been part of my team since he was an intern at Lorimar 27 years ago. He has a brilliant programming mind, sharp business acumen and great analytical skills for our evolving television audience. He is also highly respected by his colleagues at CBS and our key external stakeholders, and he knows how to make all parts of the network work together to form a winning team.”
Sherman, meanwhile, will make his transition from The CW, which is co-owned by CBS. He has spent more than a decade at the younger-skewing network, having joined in 2006 as exec vp drama, where he oversaw the development of The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl, among others.
“Through our work at The CW, I’ve had a front-row seat to see Thom’s outstanding creative instincts and programming vision in action,” Moonves added. “He has developed and nurtured an incredible roster of critically acclaimed, commercially successful and fan-favorite shows for The CW and other companies. He also has strong relationships across the community, a deft creative touch and a desire for making shows that create a passionate bond with the audience.”
Following Sherman’s departure, Gaye Hirsch will continue to oversee The CW’s scripted series development following her promotion to senior vp scripted development in January.
The shake-up, which became a recurring source of industry gossip leading up to the upfront, comes at the end of a challenging 2016-17 season, though CBS still managed to rank first with total viewers (and third in the adults 18-49 demo). In Geller’s absence, his long-standing team along with Moonves opted to renew 18 of its original series, including freshman entries Bull, starring Michael Weatherly, and Kevin James’ Kevin Can Wait, in addition to hit comedy The Big Bang Theory. The network’s forthcoming series include three new dramas and three new comedies, including Big Bang prequel spinoff Young Sheldon.
May 30, 12:55 p.m. Updated with statements from CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves.
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