CBS is “on the two yard line” in negotiating a two-year, 48-episode renewal of The Big Bang Theory — as well as a Little Sheldon prequel series about the character Sheldon Cooper — CEO Les Moonves told an investor gathering this morning.
The new series likely would follow Big Bang, he told the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference.
He described Little Sheldon: “Picture him as a 10 year old boy growing up in Texas with a very right-wing family, not used to this 10-year old genius living in their midst. It’s a terrific script and we have a terrific little kid.”
Moonves expects to pick up two comedies and two dramas from the 17 pilots auditioning for the fall prime time schedule, with “at least five, maybe six shows from this season” returning. He warns, though, that the plans “all could change depending on how good they come in.”
Per usual, Moonves says he’s bullish about the marketplace, and especially CBS’ prospects.
The CEO talked up his late night line up, including The Late Show with Stephen Colbert where ratings improved as the opening monologues became more focused on skewering the Trump administration.
“People want to see social commentary at the end of the night,” Moonves says. “They don’t want to see fun and games. There’s a lot going on every single day. My God, you wake up this morning and there are three huge stories coming out of Washington.”
He added that, no matter what you do, “50% [of viewers] are going to like what you do and 50% don’t.” But with 3 million viewers, Colbert “is winning. That’s pretty extraordinary. We haven’t won in that daypart in a long time.”
Teamed with The Late Late Show with James Corden, late night has become “a major, major profit center.”
He acknowledged that other networks such as HBO fare better in winning awards.
“We like to say at CBS, ‘you’re not going to win Emmys’,” the CEO says. “You’re just going to make a lot more money and get a lot more viewers. That’s OK. They have the nice things on their wall. You’ll buy a bigger house. I like having the bigger house myself….We are the populist network.”
Regarding the Trump administration, Moonves quipped that “although we are not the enemy of the people, we welcome the deregulation going on there.” That could include a lift in the cap restricting the number of TV stations a company can own.
Asked about his digital plans, he says that CBS wants to “speak for 100% of the country” when it negotiates carriage deals with streaming platforms such as YouTube TV. “We’re working with our affiliates to achieve that,” hoping to pre-agree on terms so that CBS can negotiate with streaming services on their behalf.
Meanwhile, Moonves says he’s encouraged by the advertising market — and expects “stronger” upfront sales.
“A lot of the major advertisers are realizing that all-digital advertising is not terrific,” he says. “It’s not as effective as broadcast advertising….Digital is sexy. Digital is cool. Digital is important. But if you want to go sell a car, you better go on NCIS which is watched by 20 million people.”