August 18, 2019

Shari Redstone Was the Surprise Star of the CBS Party at the Plaza

JOHN She was decidedly not invited last time around. In the Moonves corner of the room a year ago, everyone was on war footing. He was doing everything in his power — he took her to court two days before last year’s upfront — to save the CBS Corporation from the merger she was hoping for. This was months before Moonves had been publicly accused of sexual misconduct, which led to his ouster, and long before CBS started a dramatic companywide reckoning, which isn’t over yet. And what does Redstone want? Where will CBS be a year from now?

EDMUND If she gets her wish, by this time next year, CBS and Viacom will be onstage together. She still controls both companies, and CBS has largely a new board of directors, which seems open to a possible deal, as is Viacom. An agreement could come along as soon as a few months from now.

JOHN There were other changes at this year’s upfront. The company had always been narrowly focused on the broadcast network at this event. Not this year. Liev Schreiber, the star of Showtime’s “Ray Donovan,” fronted the sizzle reel to show off all the CBS properties, including its streaming channel (home of “The Good Fight,” “Star Trek” and “The Twilight Zone”), Showtime and even its syndicated programs (“Judge Judy,” “Entertainment Tonight”). That was all in addition to network hits like “Survivor.” “We are a team,” Schreiber said, a line meant to put CBS in the company of NBC and Disney, which included their whole corporate families in their presentations this week.

EDMUND It’s all about “scale,” a favorite word of media executives and advertisers. Other key words: “diversity” and “stability.” The new CBS lineup reflected that, mostly. Not too many new shows — I counted eight — and, yes, more onscreen diversity at the network home of “Bull” and “Blue Bloods.”

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