CBS Bosses Talk “Challenging” Negotiations & Tough Calls Following ‘Magnum P.I.’, ‘B Positive’ & ‘United States Of Al’ Cancellations


CBS likes to renew its strongest series early; last year, the FBI franchise and The Equalizer were picked up in March. When May rolled around this year and none of the the Universal Television-produced CBS drama series, the highly rated FBI dramas and The Equalizer, as well as solid Friday performer Magnum P.I., had been renewed, it was clear that the two sides were going through grueling negotiations.

Ultimately, CBS did give must-haves FBI, FBI: Most Wanted, FBI: International and The Equalizer two-year renewals less than two weeks before the network’s upfront. A few days later, Magnum P.I. was canceled.

CBS Upfront: Deadline’s Complete Coverage

“There’s always a few shows that are more challenging to close deals with,” CBS President and CEO George Cheeks told Deadline ahead of the Paramount upfront presentation. “But we got everything done we needed to get done and it never got contentious or didn’t get down to the wire.”

CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl, while acknowledging that there are always tough calls to make, admitted that suppliers of hit shows like the FBIs and The Equalizer have leverage but also downplayed the contentiousness of the negotiations.

“Whoever’s got leverage tries to use it and if you have good partners you work together to find a win win for everybody,” he said.

Deadline reported at the time of Magnum P.I.’s cancellation that it was a business, not a creative decision, after the two sides could not come to an agreement on the license fee as lower overall linear ratings have been pushing down on what networks are willing to spend on shows. The problem is most pronounced when a series comes from an outside studio as is the case with Magnum P.I., and I hear the call was influenced by the bruising negotiations CBS had to go through with Uni TV on the four other dramas.

TVLine asked Kahl to comment on our report on the cancellation being a business decision over the license fee. “You have some tough decisions to make and you have lots of factors — and I’m not going to rule [the licensing fee] out as one of them. It was a great team to work with, and one of the tougher decisions we had to make,” he told the outlet.

Kahl had literal tough calls to make when he informed CBS’ top comedy producer, Chuck Lorre, that two of his four series on the network, B Positive and United States Of Al, are being canceled.

“I’m not going to pretend and tell you he was happy. He was disappointed with the news but he’s the single most talented comedy producer I’ve certainly ever worked with,” Kahl told Deadline.

He added that the network already is in talks with Lorre about potential new projects.

Peter White contributed to this report. 

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