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Cbs Goes For The Other Six Nights

May 21, 1986|JAY SHARBUTT | Times Staff Writer

Why is it important to be No. 1 in network TV? Well, says a top executive, there's a theory that the "hottest" show makers gravitate to the first-place network.

Another reason: Advertisers make such a network their "first port of call."

Audiences also tend to watch the new shows of the No. 1 network, he adds, and it's a "fact that the first-place network generates the most interest in the press and broadcast media, adding more momentum to public interest."

Ergo, CBS has "no intention of settling for second place" next season, says CBS Entertainment President B. Donald (Bud) Grant, whose network was second in prime-time ratings to NBC last season after six successive years as No. 1.

"It is our goal for the 1986-87 season to return the CBS Television Network to first place," Grant said Monday, defying predictions in some advertising circles that NBC will repeat its prime-time victory.

The forum for his combination battle cry and pep talk was the opening business session of the annual CBS affiliates convention attended by more than 600 executives from 204 CBS-affiliated stations at the Plitt Theatre in Century City.

There, they got glimpses of pilots of the seven new series--totaling five hours of new programming--on tap from CBS for next fall, and heard Grant's night-by-night rundown of CBS' fall schedule, in which 10 of 16 returning series will be in new time periods.

Despite his we'll-be-first vow, Grant paid homage to NBC's powerhouse Thursday lineup led by "The Cosby Show" and "Family Ties." Those series will be opposed next fall by CBS' returning "Simon & Simon" and ABC News' new "Our World" American history series.

"I'd like to skip Thursday and move on" to CBS prospects for Friday night, he said, partly in jest.

However, he said, the returning "Knots Landing" on Thursday should give CBS a large female lead-in audience for its succeeding series, the new "Kay O'Brien, Surgeon."

He also said that "ABC has obviously thrown in the towel by scheduling news opposite 'Cosby' " on Thursdays. He predicted that ABC's succeeding show, the returning "The Colbys," would have little audience lead-in to help it battle "Knots Landing."

"We are looking for a respectable second (in ratings) on Thursday night," Grant said.

NBC, in winning its first season in 31 years, averaged a 17.5 rating last season, with CBS getting a 16.7 and ABC--in its second successive last-place finish--only a 14.9 (each ratings point represents 859,000 homes).

The CBS conventioneers were reminded of that outcome again Monday by CBS research Vice President Arnold Becker, who noted that because "your network" is accustomed to being No. 1, many at CBS were "a tad embarrassed" at its No. 2 finish last season.

However, Becker, like Grant, showed predictable optimism, not unexpected alarm. He painted a rosy statistical portrait of CBS doing well in all regards, and emphasized that a network that has lost the prime-time ratings race only four times in 30 years "does not have troubles. . . . ' "

He described even the perennially third-rated "CBS Morning News" as being gradually on the rise. Yes, he said, it had its ratings setbacks last season, but he called that "a slight glitch in what has been slow but steady growth."

(Although ABC Entertainment produces "Good Morning America," purists at CBS News, producer of the "Morning News," and NBC News, which runs the top-rated "Today Show," may take umbrage at a word Becker coined to describe the three morning rivals.

(He called them "newsertainment programs.")

However, a CBS spokesman said, this will not mean a change in the show's current anchor team of Forrest Sawyer and Maria Shriver. Susan Winston currently is executive director of morning news planning for CBS and may be named executive producer of the "Morning News"in July or August.

The CBS convention will end today with remarks by CBS News President Van Gordon Sauter. At today's closing session, Winston, a former executive producer of ABC's "Good Morning America," who this month joined CBS News, will give a timetable for changes that may be made in hopes of increasing the audience for the "CBS Morning News."

ABC's convention is scheduled to start June 2 at the Century Plaza Hotel, while NBC will hold its convention June 8-11 on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

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