CBS Uses Carpool Karaoke and Hamilton to Celebrate Its Top Dog Status at Upfronts

Network announces Good Wife spinoff for CBS All Access

CBS was in the mood to celebrate during its upfront presentation for buyers at New York's Carnegie Hall Wednesday afternoon. And with good reason: Not only was it the most-watched network for the eighth straight season, but it snatched the all-important 18-49 demo crown away from NBC, which had held the lead for the past two seasons.

So the network had not one but two splashy opening numbers for advertisers and buyers. The first was an upfronts version of Carpool Karaoke, The Late Late Show with James Corden's viral sensation, with a taped segment featuring Corden driving around with Jo Ann Ross, CBS president of network sales. After she bored him with advertising and data talk, and they sang a few lines of Kanye West's "Gold Digger," he had an suggestion: arrive onstage with a cane and a long white fur coat, and say, "Listen, bitches, it's CBS, and CBS needs your money." And she did.

After a quick pitch—"Buying CBS gets you where you want to go"—Ross revealed a second big opener: a musical spoof of Hamilton, with Corden on stage rapping lyrics like, "We just want your Hamiltons."

Yes, CBS was the fourth network this week to work the Broadway smash hit into its upfront, and the third to build a musical number around it. But "come on, ours is the best," said Leslie Moonves, president and CEO, CBS Corp. And it was, especially because it was the only one to include Hamilton star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who appeared in a taped segment. 

Corden was the star of the upfront, with Moonves noting, "In just over a year, he has become a late-night and internet sensation. …We love that guy."

It was an reversal from last year's upfront, when Stephen Colbert stole the show. Colbert came out later, but his routine didn't land the way his fellow late-night hosts' Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers' material did earlier in the week, perhaps because he didn't skewer the competition, or his own network, the way the others had. On the other hand, Colbert did offer to sell his soul for an advertiser to sponsor, "if the price is right."

Moonves didn't hammer CBS' digital competitors with the same fervor he had while speaking with reporters this morning. "Broadcast television remains the single best and most effective medium for advertisers to reach consumers," he said. "Every smart buy begins right here with CBS and only CBS."

He also made a big pitch for CBS' over-the-top platform, CBS All Access, which will debut a new Star Trek in January. The show's first episode will premiere on CBS, and then move exclusively to CBS All Access.

Moonves also confirmed the streaming service will air a spinoff of The Good Wife next spring, which will star Christine Baranski (Diane Lockhart) and Cush Jumbo (Lucca Quinn) and pick up a year after the events of The Good Wife finale.

Moonves then passed the baton to CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller, who presented CBS' new lineup, which he'd unveiled this morning.

The trailers for the network's new shows confirmed that once again, CBS' pickups were more on-brand than any other network's. The three new comedies are all big multicams centered on stars of former sitcoms (Kevin James in Kevin Can Wait, Matt LeBlanc in Man With a Plan and Joel McHale in The Great Indoors), and all centered around the difficulties that men in their 40s and 50s have in connecting with millennials and kids:

The footage of CBS' new dramas Bull, Pure Genius and midseason entry Training Day was similarly perfectly suited for that network's procedural-loving viewers. (CBS didn't share any footage from its other midseason drama, Doubt, starring Katherine Heigl.)

The network also screened a trailer for its MacGyver reboot, even though the show is going to be completely retooled before fall, with the entire cast replaced except for lead Lucas Till and co-star George Eads.

The Carnegie Hall audience might not have been as enthusiastic as they were earlier in the week for ABC's Designated Survivor or many of Fox's new shows, but the shows were clearly a strong fit for CBS' already solid lineup.