CBS: Selling Stability Amid Change

Addition of NFL football on Thursdays prompts a few audible calls by a network trying to project consistency

Why This Matters

STRATEGY: Use 'The Big Bang Theory' to jump-start a new Monday night, then flood Thursday with originals after the NFL leaves the lineup.

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Fox kicked off its upfront presentation May 13 with a performance by rapper Pitbull, who was joined onstage by a bevy of scantily clad dancers.

The following day, CBS featured a live violinist accompanying a video of Tom Selleck.

“There are some things that never change,” CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves told the audience roughly 20 minutes later. He added, “Year after year, there’s only one place where you always get more—more stability and consistency, more experience and leadership.” That place, of course, according to Moonves, is CBS.

But the Consistency Network has a good amount of change planned for the fall—much of it resulting from a problem CBS’ competitors would thrill to have. The half-season NFL package that will take over Thursday nights on CBS for much of the first two months of the fall season has forced strategy shifts at the other networks, and not only on Thursday nights. At NBC, for instance, the rebuilding of Thursday night around The Blacklist will have to wait until midseason—which means that the launching of State of Affairs out of the post-Voice Monday night time slot will have to wait until The Blacklist moves out of that time period, where it will remain until after Thursday Night Football ends.

But nowhere is the impact of Thursday Night Football greater than at CBS itself. The football package will displace TV’s highest-rated comedy, forcing The Big Bang Theory to move in the first part of the season. The rest of the comedy block—including new series The McCarthys at 9:30 p.m., where it will follow the final season of Two and a Half Men—and the drama that follows will wait until Oct. 30, the week after the last game airs, to premiere, with Big Bang moving back to Thursdays on the same date. The delay comes with benefits, translating into fewer reruns later in the season, when the network will have more original episodes to air.

Until it returns to Thursday, Big Bang will serve as the anchor for Monday night, occupying the time period previously held by How I Met Your Mother. It will be followed by Mom, then new drama Scorpion and NCIS: Los Angeles, bringing to an end the network’s traditional three-hour Monday comedy block.

CBS ordered only two new comedies, and neither is How I Met Your Dad, from Emily Spivey and How I Met Your Mother creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler told reporters the morning of May 14, prior to the upfront, that “There were elements of the pilot that didn’t work out,” and the creators had declined the network’s request to re-do the pilot. CBS’ option on the project expired on the same day as the upfront, giving studio 20th Century Fox Television the right to shop it elsewhere.

On Tuesdays, NCIS will start the night with new spinoff NCIS: New Orleans and returning series Person of Interest following. Wednesdays new drama Stalker will premiere at 10 p.m., following Survivor and Criminal Minds. Fridays will feature The Amazing Race, Hawaii Five-0 and Selleck’s Blue Bloods.

New drama Madam Secretary will premiere at 8 p.m. Sunday ahead of another female-protagonist drama, The Good Wife. CSI will follow at 10 p.m., with new spinoff CSI: Cyber taking over later in the season.

New series Battle Creek and a rebooted version of The Odd Couple will premiere at midseason, as will returning series The Mentalist, Mike & Molly and Undercover Boss.

THE ROOKIE CLASS

COMEDIES

THE MCCARTHYS: From creator Brian Gallivan, a comedy about a loud, sports-crazed Boston family and the son who badly wants to get away from it.

THE ODD COUPLE: Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon star in a reboot of the classic sitcom based on the Neil Simon play.

DRAMAS

MADAM SECRETARY: Morgan Freeman serves as an executive producer on this drama about a woman, played by Téa Leoni, who unexpectedly becomes U.S. Secretary of State.

NCIS: NEW ORLEANS: TV veteran Scott Bakula takes the lead in the most recent spinoff of the NCIS franchise.

SCORPION: A group of geniuses work with the Department of Homeland Security and a waitress to stop hightech threats to society. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci serve as executive producers.

STALKER: Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott play partner cops who investigate stalking instances for the Los Angeles Police Department.