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Another broadcast network president is out.
Kelly Kahl, who has been with CBS for nearly three decades, is stepping down from his role as entertainment president at the network. Kahl will exit at year’s end as part of what CBS CEO George Cheeks described as part of a “restructuring and streamlining of leadership” at CBS Entertainment. A replacement for Kahl has not yet been determined.
The news was announced Wednesday morning with both Kahl and Cheeks sending memos to staff. Read both below.
The news comes as a surprise given Kahl’s longtime history with CBS and after he was tapped to serve as entertainment president at the network following Glenn Geller in 2017. The longtime Les Moonves exec — he came with him to CBS after serving as a research exec at Warner Bros. TV — rose to the top after rising to run scheduling for the network. His scheduling prowess helped take CBS from No. 3 to No. 1 by moving hits like Survivor and CSI to Thursdays as the network challenged, and eventually defeated NBC’s former Must-See TV lineup.
The decision to part ways with Kahl comes a month after David Nevins announced he would be leaving CBS parent Paramount Global at year’s end following a 12-year run in which he oversaw Showtime and other divisions at the re-merged ViacomCBS. With Nevins’ surprise departure, Paramount divided his responsibilities to between Cheeks, Chris McCarthy and Tom Ryan. McCarthy, who already oversaw linear networks including MTV, Comedy Central and Paramount Network, added responsibility for Showtime. Cheeks added Paramount TV Studios and BET to his purview, and streaming chief Ryan added Showtime’s streaming operations.
In yet another sign of how little broadcast networks matter to their parent companies in the streaming era, Kahl becomes the third network chief to depart this year. The CW CEO Mark Pedowitz, who had been broadcast’s longest-tenured topper, was pushed out earlier this year after the network was sold to station group Nexstar; and Fox CEO Charlie Collier shocked his colleagues with his move to run originals at Roku.
One likely candidate to replace Kahl could be Thom Sherman, the former CW exec who was promoted to assist Kahl at CBS with scripted duties. Sherman currently serves as senior executive vp programming at CBS Entertainment and had reported directly to Kahl.
Here’s Kahl’s memo to staff:
the wondrous and improbable journey that started for me here 26 years ago has come to the finish line. i’ll be leaving CBS at the end of this year.
it has been an absolute honor and privilege to work at CBS, america’s most watched network. (i’ll never get sick of hearing that.) i’ve lived a TV fan’s dream to work with the most talented writers, producers, and actors in television. most importantly, i’ve loved being in the trenches alongside all of you — the finest executives and employees in show business. i want to thank every single person with whom i worked for your great efforts, creativity, and professionalism, all of which helped make this tremendous, pioneering network #1 for nearly 20 straight years. this place is special and so are its people.
i started here as a scheduler when we were in 3rd place and loved battling into 1st, but i’m especially proud of our accomplishments during my run as entertainment president over the past five years; we delivered tangible improvements in diversity and inclusion in front of and behind the camera, held our teams together and focused during the pandemic, and launched numerous hit series that maintained CBS #1 status.
i’ve been fortunate to develop strong friendships with many of you and will cherish memories of great adventures at upfronts, press tours, location shoots, final fours and super bowls. i hope and trust those bonds will continue going forward.
my very best to all of you. it’s been a magnificent ride and i’m excited to see what’s next. until then, i hope to see you at the underground…
And here’s the memo from Cheeks:
Team – I want you to be aware of a significant transition that’s happening today. As part of a restructuring and streamlining of leadership at CBS Entertainment, Kelly Kahl, our esteemed colleague and president of the division, will be leaving CBS by the end of year.
Below is the note that Kelly sent to his team this morning. We’ll have more information about the new leadership structure very soon, but right now I really want to focus on Kelly and the incredible legacy he leaves at this network.
Kelly is without peer in the broadcast television business. He is the architect of primetime schedules that have made CBS #1 for 19 of the last 20 seasons. He is the masterful and fearless scheduler who moved SURVIVOR and CSI to Thursday, changing the landscape of that night after a decade of NBC dominance.
As Entertainment president, he introduced hit shows such as THE NEIGHBORHOOD, THE EQUALIZER, NCIS: HAWAI’I, three FBIs, FIRE COUNTRY and GHOSTS and has been the passionate steward of CBS’ hit reality franchises. More broadly, Kelly has been a fierce advocate for the vitality of broadcast television while being a steady and respected network leader through the good times as well as turbulent periods.
Without question, Kelly has dedicated the last 26 years to building CBS and leaves it positioned for even further success. He has been humble, gracious and generous with his peers every step of the way.
On a personal note, I want to thank Kelly for being a valued colleague and sounding board over the past two and a half years.
Please join me in heartily thanking Kelly for all of his contributions to CBS and in wishing him all the best in the future.
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