Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #261: Is The CBS Eye on the Ball Anymore?

According to Nikki Finke, the grand poobahs at the CBS Network are planning to cut back on the money they're putting out to make television shows, all the while expanding the money they're putting into making and releasing feature films. And remember that all this is happening as the network's stock takes a tumble despite having half the shows in the Nielsen Top 10.

Now I don't know what Les Moonves is planning, but I'm starting to have some doubts about his management.

Right now CBS is the top TV network, beating ABC, Fox, and flattening NBC. Their crime-show alphabet soup (
CSI, CSI: M, CSI: NY, NCIS) dominate their time slots, and they also have The Mentalist, the most successful new show of the TV season on their roster. Things should be coming up rosy.

Well, they're not completely rosy. Their share in the CW network is just a money pit, their parent company National Amusements and its chief Sumner Redstone is in debt up to their wattles, sister company Paramount has money troubles, and no one seems too keen on going into business with any of them.

And yet Moonves is still pushing his dream of a feature film division.

Now this is a case of someone taking their eye off the ball. CBS is very successful at making television shows that sell, but that doesn't translate so easily into making feature films that sell. Also feature films are a hell of a lot more costly, and riskier than just maintaining a healthy status quo with their network.

Plus, cutting the budgets of hit TV shows usually means cutting back on the writers first, and when your network's success are on selling shows with entertaining, and occassionally crazy plots, that could hurt the network badly in the long run. And if the cuts continue, it could hurt the slick production values that make the shows stand out.

Now I'm wondering why Moonves is insisting on pursuing the idea of a feature film studio instead of just hunkering down, riding out the storm, and doing everything he can to keep his network number 1.

The only answer I can think of is ego.

Moonves must still dwell in that past era when TV network bosses were considered second class citizens, mere dukes, to the grand royalty of movie studio bosses, and I think he believes that he must become a movie studio boss to somehow give his life some meaning.

Gee, as if the millions of dollars he makes every year in salary and bonuses aren't enough.

Anyway, while I think the CBS Movie Studio idea is a bad one, at least for now, at least CBS is still better run than NBC.

Of course, just about any network is better run than NBC.

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