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"TNF" stands for "Thursday Night Football" and "CBS" stands for the most successful broadcast network in the United States (It actually stands for the "Columbia Broadcasting System" ... but who remembers that?). Thursday night, the acronyms get together to form a unique, potentially groundbreaking -- or air-breaking -- TV experiment that could change television, viewer habits, future network/cable rights fee negotiations, the NFL and (what the heck) life as we know it on Earth, too.
Or it could be a bust.
Highly unlikely that it will be a "bust" even if Thursday evening arrives at a karmically weird moment, with NFL commish Roger Goodell under fire for the Ray Rice video and the Ravens up first.
But do know this -- Thursday night's huge move is indeed an experiment, the outcome of which remains very much unknown. Will the NFL agree to hand this over to CBS after one year -- and this is just a one year deal, or in fact essentially a six-week deal? Or will it send Thursday games back to its NFL Network after getting a massive awareness boost from CBS? "TNF" will go back exclusively to the NFL Network on Oct. 30 -- that's when "The Big Bang Theory" comes back. Will people in fact, OK, not people, but guys, get used to football on Thursday?
And how will this impact the network's reliance on hugely expensive shows like "The Big Bang Theory" (back late October) -- which just got more expensive?
Let's go to the bullets to sort all this stuff out, if you don't mind:
* Will this succeed? Of course millions will tune in -- and a much larger number of humans will be tuning in to CBS tonight than tuning into NBC or ABC (combined.) But will that be enough? The real question is, what is the NFL's expectation? My hunch is that NBC has lifted that expectation dramatically and perhaps unreasonably -- 21 million on average watch the Sunday night games which indicated to the NFL that there's a massive amount of gold in them thar prime-time hills. But maybe not as much gold on Thursdays as on Sundays -- where Homes Using Television levels are higher than on Thursday. Plus this: the games will still be simulcast on the NFL Network. Maybe some viewers, the habit-bound ones, will stay with the NFL Network instead of CBS. That may have an impact, too.
* Why only a year? Plenty of guesswork on this question, but the NFL is clearly hedging its bets. CBS chief Les Moonves had this to say about the question during the summer TCA press tour: "We knew going in, this was a one-year deal. It is our job to show the NFL what we can do and how great it’s going to be and how great the partnership is going to be. And we’re confident that at the end of the year, they’re going to feel like CBS did a tremendous job. As Roger [Goodell] said, this is a building process. This is the first year. But we’re confident that after this year is over, they’ll sit down and, hopefully, give us a longer deal than that.
* Will this lesson CBS's reliance on those hugely expensive series that just get more and more expensive? I've got to believe that "TNF" is, to a certain extent, a hedge against inflation -- entertainment series inflation -- as well as a hedge against the hard, cold, brutal fact that getting people to watch entertainment fare is harder and harder and harder, even for CBS. Football essentially is a sure bet, so that if this does work, at the very least CBS has a massive promotional platform to push new shows later in the fall. (NBC had a successful launch for "The Blacklist" in part because of relentless football promotion.) CBS will still need to develop entertainment series of course -- but with an ace like this in its back pocket, maybe not so many.
* How will this impact ABC and Fox? You've heard the old line that the rich get richer ... what happens to everyone else? ABC gave up "Monday Night Football" years ago for what I am sure were wonderful business reasons -- but in hindsight were terrible ones. "MNF" was one of TV's singular franchises -- it not only taught people to watch football in prime-time, but taught them to enjoy football in prime-time. It was Roone Arledge's singular insight (one of them), and now, it's hidden, so to speak, on ESPN. (Hidden? I kid: "MNF" is a vast success for ESPN, but I do think ABC's franchise was a cultural institution, while ESPN's is a sports institution.) Ever since, ABC has struggled to fill the vacuum, and with football heading to CBS on Thursdays, that vacuum just grew. Same with Fox -- which is having a terrific time struggling to make up ground lost by a diminished "American Idol." And judging by the early numbers, "Utopia" is not the answer. That's right -- the poor get poorer.
Bruce Morton, one of the star correspondents of the Walter Cronkite/Dan Rather era at “The CBS Evening News” and long considered one of the news division's most elegant writers, has died. He was 83 and had been battling cancer.
Morton, a superb reporter, was not one to suffer fools gladly nor news organizations that no longer valued his long service or deep institutional knowledge, and...Read more »
That Stephen Colbert would choose to keep "Late Show" in New York after succeeding David Letterman as host next year was perhaps not a foregone conclusion -- crazier things have happened, after all -- but it was as close to "foregone" as the word could possibly imply.
Colbert did not agree to undertake the enormous challenge of replacing a legend by uprooting staff and friends and relocating them 3,000 miles from family, hearth and home. A move to CBS' Television City -- which of course has a world-class facility for a late night talk show and has expanded the space for "The Late Late Show" too -- would have almost certainly meant losing key personnel -- possibly even the very people who have made "The Colbert Report" such a huge success.
No: He was going to stay in New York, and he was going to stay at the Sullivan, which is possibly the single most beautiful talk show studio on all of television. (Even better: It's haunted. Did you know that? Another post, another day.)
Nevertheless, as foregone conclusions go, this is a very happy one. Not only will Colbert extend a tradition -- honestly the only late night tradition CBS has ever really had -- but it extends the tradition in the very city where late night TV was born, and where "The Tonight Show" is already proving, along with its host, that this really is the best place on the planet to mount a late night talk show.
Los Angeles is fine -- I love L.A. (me AND Randy Newman). But it's just ... different, and it's not the sort of "different" that works well with a personality and style such as Colbert's: arch, intellectual and high velocity. His style was honed here, and here it must stay.
Certainly this is a nice score for the city: Two hundred jobs will be saved, and while CBS did not specify how many of Dave's "Late Show" veterans will migrate over to Steven's "Late Show," the fervent hope is that many will. Dave's crew is excellent and understands the exigencies of mounting a late night show, night after night after night. Many are indispensable.
And this is good for the New York production community overall. While average New Yorkers may have conflicted feelings about TV or movie production in New York every time they have to jump out of the way of a dolly or are nearly cold-cocked by a boom mic -- or are just sick and tired of having traffic backed up every time some chase scene for some cop procedural just has to shut down Madison Avenue between 23rd and 24th ... it's still all good. More jobs, more people in work, more everything.
Check out these very stats from the CBS news release announcing the deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo: During calendar year 2013, applications for 181 film productions were submitted and included 124 films, 31 television programs, 25 pilots and one “relocated” television show. The impact of these projects includes: Generating a direct spend of $2.09 billion in NYS; Collecting a projected $466 million in credits; Hiring an estimated 126,301 actors and crew for the 181 projects submitted.
Looking at it all this way, "Late Show" -- which began here more than 20 years ago -- is the gift that just keeps on giving.
Beverly Hills -- And now, "NCIS: New Orleans." Not to be confused with "Los Angeles" or simply "NCIS" - the mother ship that itself was spawned from a long-ago CBS procedural, "JAG," and which proved that there's no such as a good and well-executed idea that can't be repeated over...and over...and ...over again.
"NCIS" doesn't get a whole lot of critical love, or Emmy love, but both are utterly...Read more »
BEVERLY HILLS -- Morgan Freeman, one of the greats, has not really spread all that much greatness to TV in recent decades, other than his ongoing role in "Through the Wormhole" (though not as an actor, but host). So that makes his presence at a "tour" for TV programming all that much more intriguing: As is, why exactly is Morgan Freeman here?
He's here because he's one of the executive producers, along with Barbara Hall, of CBS' new drama, "Madam Secretary," starring Tea Leoni as secretary of State. Nevertheless, why? (Lori McCreay, Morgan's production partner at Revelations Entertainment, is also an executive producer of "Madam Secretary.")
When asked whether he might have an on-air role, he said, "not at this point" -- "at this point" being one of those pregnant phrases chock full of ambiguity and promise.
He was earlier asked whether he might at one point play the president in this ensemble cast. (Keith Carradine is currently in that role.) Evoking the Shadow's old line, said he: "One never knows, do one?"
Well, the Shadow knows. Freeman hasn't spent a lot of his career behind the scenes in a production capacity -- but he has on occasion. For example, he was an executive producer of his film "Invictus." He also starred on "Invictus."
Freeman was asked whether he watched much TV. He paused, thought, then noted that he loved "The West Wing" -- which isn't a CBS series. He then quickly added "The Good Wife" to that short list.
Otherwise, no he doesn't -- just news.
Beverly Hills: All bets are off - or perhaps all bets are on - regarding the future of CBS's "Late Late Show," CBS Entertainment chief Nina Tassler told TV writers here a little while ago. The network's exploring new formats, new ideas for hosts, and possibly a whole new way of presenting something that - in basic outline - hasn't changed all that much on the broadcast networks since the era of...Read more »
CBS has announced fall premiere dates. The full list:
Thursday, Sept. 11
7:30-8:25 p.m. "Thursday Night Football Pre-Game Show"
8:25 p.m. "NFL Thursday Night Football" (Pittsburgh @ Baltimore)
Sunday, Sept. 21
7-8 p.m. "60 Minutes" (47th season premiere)
8-9 p.m. "Madam Secretary" (series debut)
9-10 p.m. "The Good Wife" (6th season...Read more »
Trailers for CBS' new shows -- "Scorpion," "Stalker," "NCIS: Nola," "The McCarthys", and "Madam Secretary" -- have arrived, and you can watch them here:
...Read more »
This morning, CBS completed the annual process known as the upfronts, as the last of the four major broadcast networks to unveil a new fall lineup. The key developments here are indeed key, for CBS will have a. Football and b. A surprisingly high number of new dramas...
And let's add a c. "The Big Bang Theory" will air on Mondays starting Sept. 11 through October, then move back to Thursdays...Read more »
Jane Pauley, a CBS News newcomer, has her first piece on the network this Sunday, on "Sunday Morning." And of course, we have a first look. This one is with best-selling author and radio host extraordinaire, Mitch Albom.