Emmys Certify CBS's Tiffany-Net Comeback
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/28/2003 8:00:00 PM
When Everybody Loves Raymond premiered in 1996, executive producer Phil Rosenthal was chided for making a sitcom that was so, well, so much like a sitcom, a throwback to the days when comedy on television was not necessarily sexy, bawdy or exclusively populated by swinging, single twentysomethings.
|Network||Prime 2003||Total* '03||'02|
|Source: Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
*Totals comprise the Creative Awards, which were handed out prior to the broadcast, and the prime time awards.
It may have sounded radically retro, but Raymond, introduced in the first full year that Leslie Moonves controlled the network's prime time schedule, was crucial. He spent years chiding critics for overlooking it even as viewers were finding it. Eventually, though, that thoroughly normal sitcom and a weird little show named Survivor became the cornerstones in rebuilding the beaten-down and Tisched-out CBS.
Two Sundays ago, Moonves finally witnessed what might be the culmination of a long journey: His network won seven major prime time Emmys. (The nearly iconic HBO won just one more than that.)
"What we saw with CBS for the most part was recognition of shows that have been on the air for a while," says Bill Carroll, vice president of programming at Katz Television Group. "That underscores the fact that the network has been able to rebuild and reestablish its credibility as the Tiffany network. The consensus, and the Emmys are reflective of that, is that CBS has had a renaissance," he added.
"Eight years ago, CBS had no respect. It was considered a network that was not even a competitor," Moonves said. "But once you achieve the branding of a quality network and establish yourself as a quality place to be, that helps with the perception of all your shows. That's certainly helped HBO over the years."
Said Chris Ender, CBS spokesman, "It's been a sort of domino effect. First we got the viewers, then the advertisers, and now the Emmys."
CBS was the top network among viewers last season, taking the crown from NBC, which won in 2002 with help from the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The CBS victory was partly fueled by CSI: CrimeScene Investigation, TV's most-watched show, with a weekly average of 26.2 million viewers.
The turnaround also helped CBS haul in $3 billion in upfront advertising commitments, still $1.1 billion behind NBC and $400 million behind ABC, networks that cater to the advertiser-friendly adult 18-49 demographic, in which CBS is not so strong.
Still, on Emmy night, Rosenthal and Raymond star Ray Romano were coy about whether the show would be back for a ninth season next year, saying a decision will be made in January.
But aside from salary disputes, is there a more buzzless show than Raymond? Even Moonves seems inclined to defend it, despite its proved success. "Raymond's not the hippest or the coolest show on TV, but it may be the funniest," he said after Emmy night. "It's almost like people resisted going to the show, but, once they got there, they really liked it."
CBS's renaissance continued with Survivor in summer 2000.
Like much of the rest of the world at the time, Moonves thought the show was the craziest idea he had ever heard. "The first two times I heard it pitched to me, I almost threw [CBS's head of alternative programming] Ghen Maynard out of my office. I told him, 'This is CBS; this isn't some cable network.' But Ghen had the fortitude to keep pushing me."
Survivor—which was beaten out of Emmy's first-ever award for best reality program by another CBS reality show, The Amazing Race—went on to revitalize CBS, with 58 million people tuning into the finale of that first go-round of the now veteran reality show.
That fall, CBS premiered CSI, and it was an instant hit on Friday nights. Moonves and his team saw an opening, and that spring pitted Survivor against NBC powerhouse Friends at 8 p.m. ET and CSI against NBC's Will & Grace at 9 p.m. Both shows survived and thrived in the tough time slots.
Last fall, CBS added Without a Trace at 10 p.m. and, by last winter, began beating NBC on the night, sometimes even in the key 18-49 demographic, making it the first time in years anyone had touched NBC's Must-See Thursday.
CSI spinoff CSI: Miami made CBS's Monday unbeatable, and suddenly the network was winning weeks and dominating in viewers.
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