2013 TV Upfronts: First-place CBS isn’t afraid to be ‘smug’

At ABC’s upfront presentation Tuesday in New York City, Jimmy Kimmel slammed the perennial first-place finisher CBS as a bunch of “smug” jerks (though he opted for a more a colorful epithet that isn’t fit to be repeated here).

Though Kimmel’s diss got the crowd at Avery Fisher Hall worked up, a day later CBS didn’t seem too worried about appearing cocky: If anything, the network seemed to embrace its reputation as the Kanye West of broadcast TV.

The day-long victory lap began early at an informal breakfast with reporters, where CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves responded directly to Kimmel.


“I was very flattered when Jimmy Kimmel called us ‘smug ...,’” he said. “So we’ll try to be a little less smug and a little more gracious, but that’s hard for me, as you know. But anyway, Jimmy, ABC is still going to finish fourth in 18-49.”

CBS head of scheduling Kelly Kahl got in even more shots at the competition, noting that the ratings difference between CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” and NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” alone would constitute a top-10 hit. He also expressed withering cynicism about ABC’s complete Tuesday-night overhaul, quipping that “as you know, that always works.” Meow.

The gloating continued later at the network’s upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall. “We think great drama belongs in prime time ... and not in the morning,” Moonves said, as a photo of a weepy Ann Curry appeared on the jumbo screen behind him. “Or 11:30 at night,” he continued, the image changing to one of Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon.

While rivals chose to emphasize other metrics, like the power of “brand” identity (ABC) or the affluence of their audiences (NBC, Fox), in order to put a positive spin on sagging ratings, CBS had the somewhat easier task of finding several dozen different ways to say “We’re No. 1!”

As Moonves himself joked, “Every year we seem to tell the same story. The biggest challenge was coming up with new ways to tell it to you.”

He even boasted that the network could condense its narrative into a single, 140-character tweet: “Upfront message easy. CBS wins everything. #dropthemic.”

But rather than dropping the mic, Moonves and CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler spent the next 90 minutes or so rattling off a dizzying string of statistics about the network’s continued ratings dominance. Hey, it ain’t bragging if it’s true, right?

Here are but a few talking points:

-- CBS has 4 of the 5 most-watched comedies on television, and 6 of the top 10 in the 18-to-49 demographic.

-- “The Big Bang Theory” is the “No. 1 comedy in the galaxy” and has “the largest audience of any comedy in nine seasons.”

-- CBS has the top 6 dramas on TV.

-- “60 Minutes” is the “No. 1 news program of all time.”

-- CBS has finished No. 1 in overall viewers 10 times in the last 11 years.

-- The network is on track to finish this season ahead by the widest margin (4 million viewers) in 24 years.

-- It’s also on track to finish in first place in the under-50 demographic for the first time since the 1991-92 season.

-- It has been 30 years since the No. 1, No.2 and No. 3 dramas on network TV aired back to back, as they will Tuesdays this fall on CBS with “NCIS,” “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “Person of Interest.”


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