One day after parent company ViacomCBS set its new upfront strategy, CBS is firming up its plans for the 2020-21 TV season, even though it remains unclear when the network’s shows will be able to resume production and air new episodes following the pandemic.
The network said today that 23 of its current primetime series will return next season, announcing the renewal of 18 shows: freshman series All Rise, Bob Hearts Abishola, FBI: Most Wanted, 48 Hours, The Neighborhood and The Unicorn, and long-running series Blue Bloods, Bull, FBI, MacGyver, Magnum P.I., NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans, 60 Minutes, SWAT, SEAL Team and Undercover Boss.
CBS had previously renewed freshman series Evil, as well as stalwarts The Amazing Race, Mom, Survivor and Young Sheldon.
“Thanks to these exceptional shows, we’re going to win the current season by 1 million viewers,” said CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl in a statement. “Next year, we’ll have these strong returning series as our foundation … and Super Bowl LV, too. It’s a well-balanced lineup across entertainment, news and sports that will put us in an incredibly stable position for 2020-2021.”
But not every current show will be returning next season. CBS has canceled first-year shows Broke, Carol’s Second Act and Tommy, as well as Man With a Plan. The network had already canceled God Friended Me last month, and Hawaii Five-0 aired its series finale on April 3.
Of course, it remains unclear when any of these returning shows will be able to resume filming, as Hollywood production has remained shut down since March due to the pandemic. Buyers and network execs are hoping to have live sports back by the fall, but expect that it could be longer before scripted series are able to resume filming and begin broadcasting new episodes.
For now, however, CBS is sticking to its usual timeframe for piecing together next season’s primetime lineup. Because pilot production was halted by Covid-19, the network is asking some creators to write scripts for the second episode in lieu of a completed pilot, as it decides which new shows to order for next season.
On Tuesday, ViacomCBS set its revised upfront plan, with two virtual presentations dubbed ViacomCBS Upfront @Home. Instead of its May 13 event at Carnegie Hall, the company will hold a pair of virtual presentations over two days.
The first day of the ViacomCBS Upfont @Home presentation, on Monday, May 18, will focus on the company’s combined assets and solutions, as well as a first look at shows across its cable networks, Pluto TV and its digital platforms. During the second day’s event, on May 19, ViacomCBS will unveil CBS’ fall programming lineup, and spotlight programming from CBS All Access, CBS Sports (including Super Bowl LV, which CBS is scheduled to air on Feb. 7, 2021) and CBS News.
In other words, the May 18 event will take the place of the Viacom-focused agency dinners that had been planned for last month, while the May 19 presentation is a replacement for the traditional CBS soiree at Carnegie Hall.
Despite uncertainty about when production can resume, CBS is continuing to tout the stability of its schedule as buyers consider their upfront spend—which is another reason why it opted to pick up so many shows at once.
“For us, the thing that has always worked is a strong, stable schedule. You’ve seen that prior to all this, and you’ll see that going through all of this,” Noriko Kelley, evp of programming planning and scheduling at CBS Entertainment, told Adweek last month.
For now, CBS is airing Paramount films like Titanic and Raiders of the Lost Ark on Sundays this month to help fill its schedule holes, and could extent that approach as the shutdown continues.
This will be the 12th consecutive season that CBS will win in total viewers. Fox will end up No. 1 in the coveted adults 18-49 demo; CBS is currently tied with ABC for third place.
CBS frequently picks up the bulk of its primetime lineup at once, as does broadcast half-sibling The CW (owned jointly by ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia), which renewed 13 shows in January.