Up Front About the Upfronts, Part 4: CBS Will Continue to Dominate

Next week, the major TV networks will announce their 2012-2013 schedules to a crowd of advertising executives in hopes that those executives will throw down a ton of money to run ads during the networks' programs. These sessions are known as the Upfronts, and they're where we'll all find out for good (mostly) what shows are renewed, what shows are canceled, and what new shows we can look forward to next year. It's, like, a really big deal you guys! So in preparation, we're spending this week looking at each one of the five major networks by reviewing what they've done in the past year and predicting what's in store for 2012-2013. Next up: CBS!


Where CBS stands now: Mostly on the throats of its competitors. The name of CBS's game is still overall viewers, and though that doesn't necessarily translate to ratings wins in the younger demographic, statistically speaking, at least some of that massive audience is going to be young. But the label of being "old" still haunts the network, and CBS knows there's still work to be done in transforming "America's Most-Watched Network" into "America's Most-Watched Network By Young People Too, We Swear!" However, when you dominate total viewers like CBS has over the past few seasons, life is pretty comfortable.


What worked this year: Don't look now, but CBS's wrinkles appear to be fading slowly! And that Botox injection started a few years ago, when The Big Bang Theory became a hit, allowing CBS to follow it up with more youthful shows like 2 Broke Girls while keeping existing sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother strong. Person of Interest has also become a hit, and CBS should be doing backflips over that series because it's the perfect bridge between the network's traditional procedurals and something that more young 'uns might like. Plus, POI was dropped right into a tough Thursday-night slot, and it performed with aplomb. The Good Wife also repeatedly comes up in conversation as one of the best shows on television, gets award recognition, and hasn't showed signs of slowing down in its third season. All seasons long, all of CBS's existing franchises did what they do best, week in and week out: sponge up viewers. It was a stellar season for CBS.


What failed this year: For an easy recap of how CBS did this year, all you have to do is go back to mid-March when CBS handed out early renewals for 15 of its series. That was in addition to way-early renewals for both The Big Bang Theory and HIMYM. In other words, not much failed at all. But if we need to find something that didn't work, one attempt at luring the young folk—the dismal How To Be a Gentleman—was a major bomb and showed that CBS still has a bit to learn about wooing young audiences. Unforgettable, NYC 22, and A Gifted Man didn't break out, but they're lessons CBS can learn from.


What's ahead for CBS: Expect more of the same from CBS until the network's formula stops working. That means a mix of "safe" shows and series that bring its median viewing age down a bit. It won't always work, but when it does, it's going to improve the brand significantly.


What CBS should be careful with: Don't push to get too young too quick. A lot of CBS's franchises still have a lot of life left in them. No one can just step out of the house one day with a sideways hat, baggy pants, and a Rebecca Black T-shirt. Also, I know CBS is stingy with the online stuff, but the days of watching TV on a TV are coming to a close and CBS had better have a plan in place.


Risky proposal that could pay off: Ready for this? Program Saturdays. Do it. CBS already thought about it with Rules of Engagement, which was originally scheduled for Saturdays last season, and the network has hit series oozing out of its ears. Opening up Saturdays would allow it to develop more new shows and get younger while keeping older shows alive. People don't watch TV like they used to. Adding Saturdays is risky, but if anyone can do it, it's CBS.



What scheduling changes would YOU make if you were a CBS executive?


PREVIOUSLY:
Up Front About the Upfronts, Part 3: ABC Is Headed in the Right Direction
Up Front About the Upfronts, Part 2: Where Does Fox Stand?
Up Front About the Upfronts, Part 1: Where Does NBC Stand?



Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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Please, don't tell me that How I Met Your Mother "worked" last season. All they did was stall. Where I come from, we call it "embromation".
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The sooner CBS updates its video player so what little they actually do offer on their site actually loads (rather than just the ads), the better. I'm beyond frustrated with their site. I'd love to go through legal channels to watch Person of Interest (after the Thursday air, which I watch on TV), but nothing but the ads ever load. I've tried different computers, browsers and Internet connections, so I know it's their site that sucks. Blarg!
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Wasn't that BS about the days of people watching TV on TV being numbered the same line of bull fans of Heroes used to claim its ratings weren't dropping? I can't see myself straining to watch a TV show on a laptop or a cellphone. I've watched episodes of shows on On Demand when I've missed them, but if I want to see a show, I usually either find the time to watch it or DVR it. Screw the young; they'll get old eventually if they're lucky. These would be the same viewers who complain about episodes being told in a flashback being tropes, right? How many viewers does the CW actually get?
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I've actually been rather enjoying Unforgettable - has it's fate been determined yet?
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PERSON OF INTEREST and CRAIG FERGUSON are really the only two things that I need from CBS.



I watch Hawaii Five-0, HIMYM, and TBBT, too... but uh... they're nowhere near the greatness that is POI and the LLS.
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I do agree that CBS needs to do better with putting all of their series online. I could watch some shows online just fine, but, for some reason, CBS wasn't putting up all of the Mike & Molly episodes. Thankfully, I received M&M's first season on DVD for Christmas, so I'll get to watch the episodes I missed that way.
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I don't really watch anything on CBS. Strange.



I never really understood why networks don't schedule any worthy programs on Saturdays. Maybe people have plans to go out but I think the majority of us would be lying that we went out partying every Saturday night.
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Here's what I would do:



The only two comedies I watch on CBS are "The Big Bang Theory" and "Rules of Engagement," so I think CBS needs to shake up Thursday night a bit. I would move "Two and a Half Men" (never cared for the show, but hear me out) to 8:00pm, thus allowing "2 Broke Girls" to transition to the 9:00pm hour on Mondays. Then at 8:30pm on Thursdays, put "Rules of Engagement" for a mid*final*season, which would allow for another comedy to take its place in the Fall/Spring. At 9, put "The Big Bang Theory" here because it is probably the highest rated show of the night, and thus would be the perfect launching pad for a new comedy at 9:30. Then at 10:00pm, they could always put a drama/procedural show. CBS has been debating a second night of comedy, and this could be it. Yes, TBBT does great at 8, but you can't have your best comedy lead the night off, because the rest of the night will drop in comparison. Just my thoughts...
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Mediocrity wins again. I watch some of these shows, but wouldn't miss any of them at this point.
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First instance of a real disagreement with you here. I don't think that Saturdays would be a good move. I agree that if anyone could do, it would be CBS, but I still don't think it would work fine.



FULLY with you about the online stuff, though. The SINGLE biggest thing that they can do to start improving younger viewing is get it all online, and promote the online stuff with your POI and "The Good Wife" and "The Big Bang Theory"s and do it now.



Again, then, with the shows that they will bring in in an attempt to skew younger, pair them with POI and "The Good Wife" and such until they get their own followings and then separate them. But you're right, CBS doesn't really need to do that much. Their formula is working well.
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"Also, I know CBS is stingy with the online stuff, but the days of watching TV on a TV are coming to a close and CBS had better have a plan in place. " YES! My biggest gripe against CBS.
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Person of Interest has already become a favorite of mine. I love watching it each week. I can't wait for season two!



Apparently, if CBS is for geezers, then, at 32, I'm already a geezer. Viva la geezers! Ow, my lumbago. I'm going to go lie down, now.
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CBS seems to have a rock-solid programming executive staff, they are able to ween out the stuff that doesn't fit while nurturing those that show promise. NBC doesn't have that, they have no ability to do either but especially not the former. ABC doesn't have that, they are willing to do the latter but aren't showing promise in the former. And Fox obviously is the opposite of ABC - able to ween out stuff that doesn't fit but incapable of nurturing promising new shows. So CBS wins, their shows win, their viewers win.



Rules of Engagement is cute, but it cannot hold the line with a meager Saturday audience, it needs a lead-in (also, it's sorta losing focus this season, becoming more aimless Seinfeldian material). It needs a Monday or Thursday to carry it, but that doesn't mean it needs to die either though.



I honestly don't know what CBS could program Saturday nights, but they'd need a lot of cash to support anything on Saturdays because nobody will even know it's on, even the audience that isn't out doing something won't know it's on because there's NEVER anything on. Reruns of their big shows could help prop up new content if it's 50/50, but I honestly think nobody has the funds to spend a year or 2 building a viewer base with even 2 hours of programming for a full season run. Even old folks don't watch TV on saturdays now, although you could try to put a hook in there for them - it'd have to be a drama though, I think (or classic content).
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I would like to see networks programming Saturdays, but I don't see CBS doing it. They can get sizable guaranteed ratings by just running repeats of some of their more popular programs on Saturdays rather than having to rely upon something new and risky.



Of course I would like also like to see networks programming cartoons on Saturday morning, that is ones that don't insult the intelligence of an eight-year-old.
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Perhaps CBS could somehow obtain Community from NBC, and we could watch as being free of the slowly (or possibly not-so-slowly) sinking ship that is NBC allowed the show to thrive.
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CBS has been getting better. 2 Broke Girls wasn't for me. But I still enjoy HIMYM and Big Bang Theory, not when their air mind you but I get around to them.



The thing that does it for me and has made me a fan was POI. That show was a surprise. I didn't think it would be great, I thought Alcatraz would have been better. Boy was I wrong. POI is probably my favorite show of the year. There is little they could do to make it better. I look forward to every episode and will be disheartened when it goes on Hiatus. Hey CBS one word for that. WEBISODES. I think some online content is perfect for this type of series. i am frankly surprised that they haven't done it considering the main plot point of the Machine being everywhere. I am sure something could be invented to have some online content. Say some pre videos of both Finch and Reese, or some pre videos of some of the numbers people who had the better episodes. Or even some of the ancillary characters that owe Reese after he saved them. The woman Fixer would be perfect, or the judge. Or even some of their bad guys. I would love to see Elias on some and the Hacker girl. just a thought to expand their online footprint.



Critiques would be, why is CSI still on the air. And The Mentalist could probably break out of their monotony of him searching for Red Jon. Other than that, and they employing David Spade I have no issue with them.



But Elementary better be remotely good next year. You can't upstage Sherlock so don't try it. Bring something new or don't bother.
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CBS : cancel CSi Miami and you are good to go !

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As a big POI fan, I am scared to death about the rumor that CBS is going to have all comedy Thursday and put POI in rating graveyard - Fridays. It's true that comedy sometimes grabs more demo rating, but I really hope CBS sees how important it is to develop audiences in new drama series too.
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I think POI is funny enough that it could just be part of the comedy block! :) One word; Finch.
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The continued success of this boring network continues to baffle me.
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Person of Interest has really helped the brand image of CBS. In the past when I thought of CBS I thought of David Letterman and prune juice. Now I think of John Reese and Batman.
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POI is really awesome. If you hate CBS without trying POI, you would love them for having POI once you watch the show. (I still need to check out The Good Wife)
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The Good Wife is really good! You should definitely check it out.
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While I'd be all for some shows on Saturdays, it'll never work. People don't watch TV like they used to, but they still only count (A very small amount of) the viewers that do.



I think they should free up some space for more edgy shows. They really don't take the chances they should.
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