CBS Creative Chief David Nevins To Speak At Wall Street Conference As Search For Permanent CEO Continues

David Nevins
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CBS is sending Chief Creative Officer David Nevins to represent the company at a high-profile annual media conference organized by investment bank UBS.

The conference, now in its 45th year, is scheduled for December 3 and 4, with Nevins (who is also chairman and CEO of Showtime) speaking on the afternoon of the second day. Other speakers include AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, Discovery CEO David Zaslav, Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh and Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos.

Joe Ianniello John Paul Filo/CBS

The choice of Nevins over acting CEO Joe Ianniello is an intriguing one as CBS continues to evaluate potential picks for the permanent CEO role. Ianniello, who has been serving in the top role since the ouster of Les Moonves in September, got positive reviews from the investment community for presiding over the CBS quarterly earnings call earlier this month. Nevins, who sources have mentioned as an internal option for the permanent job, as is Ianniello, made his first appearance on the same call. (Showtime’s boss, unlike those at premium networks HBO and Starz, has not historically had a regular seat at the Wall Street table.)

As Deadline reported in October, CBS has hired executive search firm Korn Ferry to look for a permanent leader, a process expected to last into the first quarter of 2019.

Ianniello served as Mooonves’ top lieutenant for years, playing a key dealmaking role in priority corporate initiatives such as CBS All Access and boosting revenue from licensing and distribution. Some involved with the search have wondered about his lack of experience in the No. 1 job, however, and also about any downside of his close association with Moonves, the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company to be forced out during the #MeToo era. Yet Nevins, despite his strong pedigree as a creative executive and improvement of Showtime’s fortunes, also has never had a job overseeing a media empire that includes areas like advertising, local stations and news.

Whoever takes the reins at CBS will also face distinct limitations, the same ones that made Moonves increasingly restless during the latter half of his 24-year tenure at the company. The strategic direction of CBS, along with that of Viacom, is determined by controlling shareholder National Amusements. Shari Redstone, who heads National Amusements, has pushed for the companies to be combined, as they were from 2000 to 2006, which means a CEO of CBS might have a fairly short runway in terms of truly calling the shots.

Along with the internal hopefuls, outside candidates are said to include former Disney executive Tom Staggs, ex-Turner CEO John Martin, as well as former longtime CBS execs Nancy Tellem and Nina Tassler.

On December 11, the reconfigured CBS board of directors, which is now steered by interim chairman Strauss Zelnick, will gather for the company’s long-delayed annual shareholder meeting. During the meeting, shareholders will be asked to vote on the company’s directors—the majority of whom have joined the board, or been nominated, since the exit of Moonves punctuated a year of constant drama.

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