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CBS Chief Signs a New Contract With Viacom

Times Staff Writer

CBS chief Leslie Moonves has a new five-year contract with Viacom Inc. along with a new title: network chairman and chief executive, company executives said Monday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and Moonves declined to comment. The contract, which runs through December 2007, replaces an agreement that would have expired next year. Moonves, 53, continues to report to Viacom President Mel Karmazin, who recently sealed his own three-year pact after protracted negotiations with Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone.

Moonves’ contract was signed last week, executives said. The timing coincided with Viacom’s decision to replace several board directors, including Moonves, with independent directors. CBS executives said the moves were unrelated.

Moonves is credited for turning around CBS, which was losing $100 million a year and was in third place among viewers when he joined the network as entertainment president in 1995.

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Now, CBS turns a profit, one of three major broadcast networks to do so, and probably will finish the season with more total viewers than any other network. CBS, however, is tied with ABC in third place among viewers aged 18 to 49, the demographic that advertisers desire most.

Moonves became CBS president in 1998 and has launched TV hits such as “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “Survivor.” He is responsible for entertainment, news, sports, 39 Viacom-owned television stations, the UPN network and CBS Enterprises, which features the King World syndication division.

“CBS’ programming has improved dramatically,” said Jessica Reif Cohen, media analyst with Merrill Lynch. “CBS is now a hot network.”


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