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New CBS President Predicts a 'Robust Upfront in May' After a Series of Strong Quarters

Touts viewership and advertising gains

CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller said more people are watching CBS than 15 years ago. Getty Images

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. That was the overall theme of new CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller's first executive session with reporters at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour.

Geller, who was at CBS for 14 years before taking over as president, echoed the same sentiments of dominance and stability as his predecessor, Nina Tassler, who announced in September that she would be stepping down as chairman at the end of 2015.

Despite a decline in linear ratings, "more people are watching CBS shows than they did 15 years ago," Geller said. With multiplatform viewing factored in, CBS draws an average of 13.2 million viewers, a 6 percent increase over the linear-only average of 12.5 million in the 2000-2001 season.

"CBS's ability to build a big audience distinguishes our brand in all parts of our business," said Geller. "We saw the marketplace turn around in the third quarter of 2015. It gained strength in the fourth quarter, and it's currently very strong in the first quarter of 2016. Historically, series of strong quarters in scatter leads to a robust upfront in May."

CBS was the only broadcast network among the Big Four not to cancel a show—or reduce its episode order—last fall.

Geller noted that while programming like Blue Bloods isn't considered "sexy," the show has more viewers than any scripted drama on any other broadcast network except Empire. "I think 14 million viewers is pretty damn sexy," he said.

Saying, "There's no question that it's far more competitive out there than ever before," Geller noted that of the 409 scripted shows that aired last year, CBS had the No. 1 and No. 2 most-watched shows in total viewers (NCIS and The Big Bang Theory), six of the top 10 and 28 of the top 50. "CBS is a dominant presence in this ever-evolving media universe," he said. "We take great pride in our success."

Geller, who called himself "a big fan of reality, both as a viewer and a programmer," said, "We've found the next big reality hit" in Hunter, his first series order as president.

In the show, which is based on a U.K. series, teams of two are hunted by law enforcement professionals and can win $100,000 if they manage to evade their pursuers for 28 days. "It literally feels tailor-made for CBS," Geller said.

Geller confirmed that the current season of Mike & Molly will be its last and said it hasn't been determined yet if critically acclaimed drama The Good Wife will return for an eighth season. If it does, it will do so without show creators Robert King and Michelle King, who will not be back for a potential Season 8.

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