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The Future of TV

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Very long, awfully interesting interview with George Cheeks, the President of CBS. It is remarkable the degree to which the television industry has changed over the past two decades, but there’s also some unexpected continuity; FBI and NCIS are, after all, very traditional linear television product, and both franchises remain enormously successful. In any case, there’s lot to chew on here, including most notably the complicated relationship between the network, the affiliates, and the streaming side of the business. I also found this interesting:

Long before you arrived at CBS, the network for years had messaged to advertisers and the press that it wasn’t trying to win the demographics game most networks play. Now we’re at a point where virtually no regular series scores above a 0.8 Nielsen rating among viewers under 50 and there’s virtually no difference in the overall demo averages of the Big Four. Are we finally at the point where demos just don’t matter and total audience reach is what counts in network TV? 
 
I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t think we can necessarily say that it’s now completely irrelevant, because there are sales that are still done on a demo basis. I do feel like we are in a period of transformation where reach and impression are going to be much more important than before. And obviously the ad sales dynamic drives everything in our business since ad revenue is such a big piece of it.

So advertisers still want to reach those younger viewers, but to reach those younger viewers through network shows, they need to look beyond the linear TV audience and take into account who’s watching those shows on Paramount+ or Peacock or Hulu?

That’s exactly right. And because of that, when we look at how we define hits and when we make greenlight decisions for subsequent seasons, we are looking at both. You see this when you look at some of the big shows, the SVUs, the NCISes, etc. These shows are finding these younger audiences in streaming who are loving them, but probably have no idea which linear network they’re on. My teenage nephews are huge fans of NCIS and FBI. They have no idea they’re on CBS. They only watch them on Paramount+. But the view is, that shouldn’t matter. What’s really important is that we’re reaching the audience wherever they want to consume the shows, and we’re producing the kind of shows they want to watch.

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