ViacomCBS Upfront Puts Focus on Live TV

Leave it to CBS — or ViacomCBS as it now wants to be known — to serve up an upfront with an actual primetime grid. The on-demand, streaming universe is here, and only accelerated during the pandemic when the normal rhythms of office life were supplanted by Zoom rooms in our pajama bottoms. But at CBS, with an audience more likely to watch TV live, lead-ins still matter. And so the ViacomCBS virtual upfront on Wednesday ended — after a breezy 43 minutes — with the network’s primetime schedule.

The upcoming 2021-22 TV season on CBS will include three new dramas: “NCIS: Hawai’i,” “FBI: International,” “CSI: Vegas” — and one new comedy, “Ghosts” — an adaptation of the BBC comedy about the new owners of a haunted estate. It’s the kind of meat-and-potatoes fare the network is known for.

There were plenty of highlights from the Viacom stable of younger-skewing networks; Trevor Noah had a starring role in the proceedings. The presentation was headlined by “Survivor”’s Jeff Probst and featured a surfeit of talent across the company’s brands including Cedric the Entertainer, Gayle King, Norah O’Donnell, RuPaul, James Corden, Christine Baranksi, Lay Lay, Charlamagne Tha God and Tony Romo. But the presentation stressed simple solutions for media buyers dealing with a dizzying array of content and products.

And the fact that the presentation focused so heavily on flagship CBS was a tell. The company has planted its streaming flag with streaming service Paramount Plus, but the ad dollars are on CBS.

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