B. Donald (Bud) Grant resigned Friday as president of CBS Entertainment, five weeks into a prime-time season that is shaping up as one of the network's worst ever.
A successor was not immediately named. Grant, head of the network's entertainment division since November, 1980, will go into independent production with a company called Bud Grant Productions.
CBS was No. 1 in the ratings when Grant was elevated to the presidency from his job as programming vice president, but it has run second to NBC in the prime-time ratings for the past two years and is running third this season, although ABC's numbers reflect a short-term boost from the World Series. CBS currently has only four shows in the Top 20, and its prime-time ratings are off 14% from a year ago.
Grant's resignation had been predicted by many in the TV industry for at least a year as a result of the network's slipping status. "It's less of a surprise that he's leaving now than the fact that he didn't leave last year," said Brad Radnitz, a veteran TV writer and producer who has worked on several CBS shows.
Grant, who joined CBS in 1972 after 14 years at NBC, said in a telephone interview Friday that his resignation had not been forced and that he did not feel that he was leaving CBS in a weakened condition. His decision was based on a desire to get closer to the creative side of the business, he said.
No Bona Fide Hits
"I am the happiest person in town," Grant said. "As I've gotten higher and higher in the company, I've gotten further and further away from from what I enjoy doing, and what I know a little bit about, and what I think I can do well."
Gene Jankowski, president of CBS Broadcast Group, offered no explanation for Grant's decision and said in a prepared statement that the company wished Grant "every success in this new endeavor, which fulfills a personal goal of his."
Of the nine prime-time series that CBS introduced this fall, a few have been critically acclaimed but none is a bona fide hit.
"Frankly, I think the shows we put on this year are really good," Grant said. "We put on nine new shows--count 'em, nine," Grant continued. "Of the nine, five have already been picked up (for the full season). It takes two years for a show to be a success.
"I don't think I am leaving CBS in the lurch, if you will, because I believe they are on the right track."
Grant said his employment agreement with CBS had always contained an understanding that he had the right to go into independent production at any time and that CBS would fund that production. "I have exercised that option," Grant said.
Grant's production agreement with CBS is non-exclusive, meaning that he will offer projects to his former employer first but, if rejected, can sell them elsewhere. Grant said he is currently negotiating with various studios about entering into joint ventures with his new company.
Some producers and other industry executives contacted Friday about Grant's resignation expressed surprise that he was leaving rather than Kim LeMasters, the network's vice president of programming since April, 1986. LeMasters is generally considered to be the force behind this season's prime-time lineup.