CBS shake-up: Kelly Kahl and Thom Sherman promoted into top leadership roles as Glenn Geller exits
CBS is overhauling its leadership ranks, promoting veteran scheduling chief Kelly Kahl to president of CBS Entertainment, and bringing on longtime creative executive Thom Sherman to oversee programming for America’s most popular television network.
Kahl has been a stalwart of CBS Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Leslie Moonves’ inner circle for more than two decades, and has been instrumental in the network’s success.
He will replace Glenn Geller, who had a mild heart attack in mid-March as CBS was preparing its slate of pilots. CBS announced that Geller, who has since been on medical leave, was stepping down as entertainment president after about 18 months. He probably will segue to a producer role.
Tuesday’s shake-up was telegraphed earlier this month as Kahl took a turn on the stage at Carnegie Hall in New York to promote CBS’ new fall schedule to advertisers. Kahl, 50, will manage the the network’s daily operations.
As a student at USC in 1990, Kahl worked for Moonves as an intern at Lorimar Television. The Wisconsin native then followed Moonves to Warner Bros. television studio, which Moonves ran in the mid-1990s.
“Kelly was there with me in the trenches when we had to convince NBC that ‘ER’ was going to be a hit show,” Moonves said in an interview. “We’ve been through a lot together.”
Kahl, who joined CBS in 1996, was the architect of key scheduling moves that catapulted “CSI,” “Survivor,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The Big Bang Theory” to huge ratings.
CBS ended the most recent TV season in first place with an average of 9.65 million viewers a night — more than 1.5 million viewers ahead of second-place NBC. But CBS has struggled to launch a breakthrough hit in the last few seasons. Its most recent hits, “Bull” and “Life in Pieces,” have generated large audiences, but not the buzz of NBC’s breakout hit “This Is Us,” ABC’s “black-ish” or even “The Big Bang Theory,” which CBS launched 10 years ago.
The median age of CBS’ audience now is 60, according to Nielsen data, putting pressure on the network to develop shows that resonate with younger audiences and advertisers.
Sherman, 52, most recently served as executive vice president in charge of programming at the small CW broadcast network, a joint venture of CBS and Warner Bros. Entertainment.
He will join CBS as its senior executive vice president, in charge of programming.
The leadership changes come at a pivotal time for CBS and other traditional TV networks. They face increasing competition from popular streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu that are spending heavily to create high-quality programs.
“I’m satisfied with our development this year — we have a good schedule,” Moonves said. “But the business is changing rapidly and you have to look for shows in different places. Leadership and creativity is so important these days.”
Kahl will report to Moonves. Sherman will report to Kahl and oversee CBS’ creative divisions, including casting, drama, comedy, daytime, late night and alternative programming.
“They will complement each other,” Moonves said. “I’m relieved we found a good solution.… Why would you take a risk on someone [from the outside] when you’ve got these two terrific guys in-house.”
Sherman has been key to the CW’s success, shepherding such notable shows as “The Flash,” “Arrow,” “Jane the Virgin,” “The Vampire Diaries” and “Gossip Girl.” He joined the CW in 2006 after working two years at J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company. Before that, he was a development executive at ABC, helping bring to life such major hits as “Lost,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives.”
Sherman was born in Illinois and grew up in San Diego County.
It was unclear Tuesday whether the CW would fill Sherman’s position. In January, the network gave several executives greater duties, including its senior vice president, Gaye Hirsch, who was given responsibility for scripted programming development.
CBS shares closed less than 1% lower, or 5 cents, to $61.52 on Tuesday.
3:35 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with commentary and additional details.
This article was first published at 11:25 a.m.
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