Af­ter Moonves, CBS takeover pos­si­ble in new me­dia land­scape

Ripon Bulletin - - Nation -

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.

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