CBS' Big Bang Theory: Better to Shake Up the Network Schedule Than Stand Still

Last Updated May 19, 2010 3:05 PM EDT

It could have been so easy next season for CBS. As the dominant TV network overall, the network could have taken the path of least resistance for the 2010-11 season, coasting on the fumes of hits like Big Bang Theory, CSI, NCIS and Two and a Half Men while leaving the struggles of trying to create hit shows to other broadcast networks with more problems.

But that's not what CBS -- BNET's corporate overlord -- has done. Instead, it has moved more of its schedule around than any other broadcast network, and that will make for an interesting plot line of its own as the 2010-11 TV season commences.

Here, in broad strokes, are the moves the network has made:

  • Moving its highest-rated sitcom, Big Bang Theory, from Mondays at 9:30 p.m. (following Two and a Half Men) to Thursday at 8 in a move that puts the network straight up against NBC's long-standing Thursday night comedy block. The new Twitter-based series, Bleep My Dad Says, starring William Shatner, will follow at 8:30. To accommodate the strategy shift, Survivor, which has long dominated Thursdays at 8, will now shift to Wednesdays at 8.
  • Moving both CSI:NY and CSI:Miami to new time slots. Miami moves from Mondays at 10 to Sundays at 10, while New York shifts from Wednesday at 10 to Friday at 9.
  • Adding three new dramas at 10 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday respectively: a remake of Hawaii 5-0, a defense-attorneys-in-Vegas show called The Defenders, and an Irish-cops-in-New-York show, Blue Bloods.
  • Cancelling seven shows to make room for the new arrivals, including The Ghost Whisperer and The New Adventures of Old Christine.
It's an interesting strategy, partly because it rides on the belief that, even in a fragmented media landscape, it's possible to move hit series around, such as Survivor and the CSIs, and not lose audience -- and also that it's worth sacrificing some shows to lesser time slots to take the chance on something new. In short, it's a belief in network TV as it has been for decades. As CBS' senior executive for primetime, Kelly Kahl, said:
We could have just filled holes in our schedule, or we could totally revamp it. If you wait too long, you start to decline [in the ratings], and once that starts it's hard to pull out of.
True enough. What also might have factored into CBS' big bet is that, while, overall, network TV share once again declined this season, CBS has fared better than most. Not only is it the most-watched network overall, accounting for about 60 percent of the top 25 shows -- depending on the week -- but about half of those in 18-to-49, a demo that Fox continues to rule but that CBS would no doubt like to make headway on because that's what advertisers want. Compared to some of its competition, it's got little to lose, and a lot to gain.

Previous coverage of this year's upfront at BNET Media: