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CBS Chief George Cheeks Says Network Will Keep Programming At 10 P.M., Pushing Back On Forecast From Hearst TV’s Jordan Wertlieb And Other Station Bosses At NAB Show NY – Update – Deadline

By Dade Hayes
Business Editor
UPDATED with CBS statement: CBS CEO George Cheeks insists the network will continue programming the 10 p.m. hour, countering the view of Hearst Television chief Jordan Wertlieb, which went unchallenged by three other local TV leaders during a panel Wednesday at the NAB Show New York.
“We are committed to 10 p.m. and continuing our ratings success in that time period,” Cheeks said in a statement furnished to Deadline.
Wertlieb didn’t single out CBS by name, but when he was asked on the panel whether “the other networks” with a 10 p.m. hour (meaning CBS and ABC) will follow NBC’s lead and hand back the 10 p.m. block to affiliates, he said, “I expect they will.”

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NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell this month confirmed reports from recent weeks that the company was looking at the 10 p.m. shift, though he said no final decision has been made.
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That was the consensus among a panel of local station chiefs interviewed at NAB Show New York, including NBCUniversal Local Chairman Valari Staab. Her company has stunned the industry in recent weeks by confirming it is actively considering handing back the hour to stations, giving her division valuable real estate. Asked if he expects other media giants to follow NBCU’s lead, Hearst Television chief Jordan Wertlieb replied, “I expect they will and I hope they will.”
While no one else on the panel of four station bosses was quite as outspoken as Wertlieb, there was general consensus that the NBCU move was the likely direction of things. He and Staab both said media companies are reckoning with the fact that in a world of secular ratings decline, with streaming services controlling the largest chunk of scripted TV viewing and attention, the costly process of programming three hours every night are due for re-examination. (Other broadcast nets Fox and The CW have never had the full three hours.) Not only would significant expense be eliminated, but the media companies could also benefit via their owned stations, as would major stand-alone groups like Hearst.
“Valari made a good point and it applies to all the networks,” Wertlieb said. “Take those resources and invest it in a really strong 8 to 10 block and the entire ecosystem improves.”

NBCU CEO Jeff Shell, in an interview with CNBC this month, said no final decision has been made about the primetime shift, but he confirmed that the company is committed to “reallocating resources” in that area to make the most of the current operating environment.
Asked what might go in a 10 p.m. hour controlled by her division, Graham Media Group CEO Catherine Badalamente said it “will definitely look probably different than a traditional newscast, but it’s a huge opportunity for us across the board.” While many stations are looking to add more news, given the generally favorable return on investment, lifestyle programming, game shows or sports are all possibilities. Sinclair Broadcast Group CEO Chris Ripley addressed his company’s recent teaming with CSI creator Anthony Zuiker to mine the station group’s archives and work with staffers to create original programming for Sinclair as well as outside buyers.
Ripley didn’t go into detail about his company’s outlook on the 10 p.m. hour, but he didn’t mince words when describing the landscape. “Streaming has gutted the general entertainment and cable networks,” he said. “Literally gutted them. When you take a look at that, the core strength of the pay-TV bundle is live, day-and-date content, which is the strength of broadcast. Within the ecosystem, I think broadcast TV will continue to do quite well.”
Wertlieb pushed back at a recent report by Wall Street investment firm MoffettNathanson that posited that linear television is in a death spiral, shedding 6 million subscribers a year (and counting). “The prognostication of the death of linear television has been going on for 40 years,” he said. While many Wall Street analysts say the bundle could shrink to half its current size of around 70 million U.S. households in the coming year, Wertlieb sees the floor as more like 60 million. “Every year, we surprise the marketplace because the American public loves broadcast television.”
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