Friday, June 15, 2007

Because Egos are Sooo Fragile: Les Moonves, You’re #1: Really!

Not just because I'm a chronic suck up at all. Moonves really is #1 in the thing networks care MOST about: primetime ratings. We live in a world where you can really make a boneheaded decision and totally undervalue the worth of the Dan Rather brand and still be…#1. Les Moonves lives in exactly that world. A world where America LOVES, LOVES, LOVES CSI.

That America isn't loving on Miss Couric on the CBS Evening News – this I believe isn't Miss Couric's fault at all, but instead just how the whole transition from Rather to Couric was handled (which is to say, very, very badly). Again, I don't think that's a really function of anything to do with Katie Couric.

It doesn't matter. Primetime ratings matter. And here, Moonves or at least CSI in all its variations are killing. While CBS didn't have any of the top 5 programs, either for the season or the May sweeps, CBS still dominated with 13 out of the top 20 shows being CBS products and EIGHTEEN OUT OF THE TOP TWENTY-FIVE shows in the May sweeps. That's dominance. The highest value to the networks come from its ability to score during primetime, so Moonves probably views himself (and correctly so) as the winner.

I wouldn't fault him for that. Except I have no idea what role Moonves had in CSI and its variants or any of the other programming running during primetime. If those decisions were his, I'll give him all the credit for it (and even if they weren't his, I'll give him the credit). What I am sure of is, the Dan Rather/Katie Couric thing was all his, and it was completely botched: not just in execution, but in terms of how he thought about it to begin with. The fact that CBS is #1 during primetime has no bearing on how poorly this was handled, except that I'm sure that Moonves is not under any kind of pressure, say…compared to NBC, which came in last in the primetime sweeps.

Les Moonves is #1 in the thing that really matters, the primetime ratings. But if the goal is to make the most money for your firm possible, and if it isn't, I kind of think it should be, I hold Moonves completely accountable for botching the Rather thing. Because he's #1 where it matters he won't feel any heat for being accountable here. That's human nature, but it's the kind of human nature that usually eventually comes around to bite you in the butt.

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