The forensic evidence shows this company is tops in the TV ratings. CBS Broadcasting owns and operates the CBS Television Network, the #1 watched broadcast network in the US. Its top shows include CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its two spinoffs, as well as The Mentalist, NCIS, and a host of primetime comedies. It boasts more than 200 affiliate stations around the country, including about 15 stations that are company-owned and -operated. In addition, CBS Broadcasting oversees The CW Network, a 50%-owned joint venture with Time Warner's Warner Bros. Entertainment. The company is a unit of media conglomerate CBS Corporation.
Like most other big media businesses, CBS Corporation aims to integrate its content creation and distribution arms in order to generate multiple streams of revenue, and the CBS network plays a pivotal role within that strategy. The network generates revenue from advertising for shows created by the company's production units (namely CBS Television Studios), and it serves as a point of contact with a large audience to help cross-promote other CBS properties, including books (Simon & Schuster), consumer products and DVDs, and Internet sites (CBS Interactive). It is also the biggest portion of CBS Corporation's entertainment segment, which accounts for about 55% of sales.
The CBS network depends on advertising for the lion's share of its revenue, which means it is constantly focused on fine-tuning its programming to keep audiences glued to the television. In that endeavor CBS had been very successful: The network has dominated the ratings race for most of the past decade thanks to its primetime criminal dramas and sitcoms, including Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. It is also second only to FOX in the coveted 18-49 demographic, though its core primetime shows still skew more towards older audiences than some of the other networks. In February 2011, however, the network's production schedule hit a much-publicized snag when production on the eighth season of Two and a Half Men ceased due to the erratic behavior of actor Charlie Sheen. CBS fired Sheen and eventually hired actor Ashton Kutcher as his replacement.
Heavy investment in sports programming also helps boost the network's audience numbers. In 2009 CBS extended its broadcasting rights deal with the National Football League through the 2013 season; it pays more than $1.3 billion each year to air Sunday afternoon games. The network joined with Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting cable networks the following year to ink a 14-year pact with the NCAA for rights to the March Madness college basketball tournament. The deal, valued at $10.8 billion, allows the broadcast network and Turner's channels (TBS, TNT, truTV) to jointly air the popular matches while splitting the production costs. CBS had been the exclusive home to the basketball tournament since 1982.
Having such a large and loyal audience helped cushion the network to a degree during the recession in 2009, but CBS still took steps to cut some costs in order to make up for declines in revenue. Early in 2010 the network cut about 100 positions within its CBS News division. More importantly for its corporate parent, the recession took a toll on the company's owned and operated TV stations which depend on local advertisers for revenue. CBS is also focused on the financial health of its broadcasting affiliates, including such big station groups as Gray Television and LIN TV.
While positions in the broadcast ratings game have become largely entrenched, CBS has not rested on its laurels for the 2010-11 TV season. The network ordered a re-imagining of the classic island cops drama Hawaii Five-O and moved the hit comedy Big Bang Theory from its Monday night stronghold in an effort to establish a second night of comedy on Thursdays. CBS is also continuing to diversify its revenue streams through interactive media. The network distributes many of its shows online as well as through Amazon.com and Apple's iTunes store. – less