Jo Ann Ross with Jon Batiste

Upfront Notebook: Eyeballs Plus Data Is CBS’ Formula

Digital debuts at Carnegie Hall

As usual, CBS was tooting its own horn at Carnegie Hall during its upfront presentation Tuesday.

Jo Ann Ross, CBS’ president of ad sales, appearing in a jaunty purple suit like bandleader Jon Batiste playing the melodica, or whatever the hell it is that he plays at the beginning of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert—now the No.1 network late-night show in total viewers, a measure by which CBS is No. 1 as well.

(Late Show is also No. 1 among FCC investigators 18 to 49, Colbert joked.)

Eyeballs are of course important. But these days, CBS says, the winning formula is eyeballs plus data.

“In a world of alternate facts, where up is down and down is up, this simple truth holds: more people watch CBS than any other network, period,” Ross said.

“We’re not just number one with viewers, we’re No. 1 in 250 product categories with consumers, you know, consumers, the people who actually buy your products,” she added.

Ross said that CBS had more top-20 shows with consumers in most of those product categories.

“We believe that the advanced data and measurement benefits CBS and our advertisers the most,” she said. “This includes a new service we are introducing tonight called CBS Customized Data Solutions. Our number one network and our massive digital footprint uniquely position us to reach the custom audience segments with scale and to deliver one-to-one addressability across all digital channels that we own.”

CBS took the obligatory pass at making fun of digital’s foibles, showing how an ad for a cruise line was juxtaposed with a news story about a boat capsizing. “At CBS, we do not let this kind of ship happen to you,” Ross said.

But later in the program, CBS was the only network to give digital its due, bringing the president and COO of its interactive unit, Marc Debevoise, to the stage for the first time in the company’s history.

Debevoise said advertisers could only buy CBS’ digital content directly from CBS, and that content is extensive, generating millions of viewers and billions of streams.

"And those users give us real data that we use to provide customized ad targeting across digital and linear,” he said.

He also showed off CBS’ over-the-top offerings, presenting the first clip from Star Trek: Discovery, which will appear exclusively on CBS All Access. CBS, he noted, remains one of the few providers “with real advertising opportunities on these platforms.”