After Moonves, CBS takeover possible in new media landscape
NEW YORK (AP) — The resignation of longtime CBS chief Les Moonves won’t likely lead to drastic changes in network programs, but a related deal could make the company ripe for a takeover as traditional media companies compete with upstarts such as Netflix and Amazon.
Moonves was ousted Sunday, just hours after the New Yorker detailed more sexual misconduct allegations against him. A dozen women have alleged mistreatment, including forced oral sex, groping and retaliation if they resisted him. CBS is on the hook for $120 million in severance if its investigation, being conducted by two outside law firms, finds no evidence of wrongdoing. Moonves has denied wrongdoing.
Even before the latest New Yorker article came out, Moonves was already facing pressure to leave. His departure was brokered as part of broader talks with CBS’ parent company, National Amusements, over the network’s future. Under settlement terms with CBS, National Amusements chief Shari Redstone conceded not to push for combining CBS with sibling company Viacom for at least two years, a merger that Moonves had opposed. National Amusements also agreed to a board shake-up that increased the power of independent directors.
The network was struggling when Moonves took over as entertainment chief in 1995. He quickly turned things around and churned out shows appealing to the older, more tradition-bound CBS audience — broad-appeal sitcoms such as “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory” and procedural dramas such as “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “NCIS.” ‘’Survivor” was an early reality show hit, and continues to this day. Moonves became CEO of CBS Television in 1998 and CEO of the newly created CBS Corp. in 2006 after it split from Viacom.
Moonves’ temporary replacement, Chief Operating Officer Joseph Ianniello, has steered top projects such as stand-alone streaming services for CBS and the Showtime cable channel. But he doesn’t have a creative or sales background, which might make him an awkward long-term leader for the company.
For now, Ianniello is unlikely to make drastic changes in programming, particularly since CBS’ formula has been working. Programming changes could be more substantial if CBS chooses someone outside the company as a permanent replacement.
B. Riley FBR analyst Barton Crockett said CBS could remain successful without Moonves. He noted the continued success of other networks that have lost top executives to sexual misconduct claims, including Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly at Fox News and Matt Lauer at NBC News.