George Cheeks Addresses Paramount Global Shakeup, Company Morale At CBS Schedule Reveal

Three days after he was named to the newly formed Office of the CEO of Paramount Global, George Cheeks, President and CEO of CBS, faced reporters at the unveiling of the broadcast network’s fall 2024 schedule.

On Monday, Bob Bakish exited as Paramount Global CEO, replaced by a trio of senior executives, division heads Cheeks, Chris McCarthy and Brian Robbins who comprise the Office of the CEO.

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Cheeks quipped about having an uneventful week and spoke briefly of his partnership with McCarthy and Robbins in his opening remarks.

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“We are in the process of finalizing our strategic plan which we are going to roll out as soon as possible,” he said, echoing the trio’s comments from Monday.

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Cheeks also stressed that there will be no interference from each of the top executives in the working of the portfolios they didn’t oversee before getting the new Office of the CEO duties.

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“Divisional clarity will continue,” Cheeks said, explaining that he remains the sole head of CBS, Robbins will remain the sole head of Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon and McCarthy will be the sole head of MTV Entertainment and Showtime.

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“In other words, I have no involvement in Paramount Pictures greenlights and Brian has no involvement in CBS show greenlights,” he said before segueing to touting CBS’ ratings success as the network is poised to finish as the most watched broadcast network for a 16th consecutive season.

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During the Q&A, Cheeks was asked about the impact of the ongoing uncertainty over the future of Paramount Global, which is in the process of being sold, on the morale within CBS.

“It’s a challenging time right now, you read articles every day, but I think what is amazing about this team is that we all locked arms and said, we can only control what we can control, and what we can control is help develop great shows, hit shows and being No. 1,” he said. “And what’s been amazing to me is that throughout all the noise, everybody has been locked and loaded on what we need to do.”

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On Monday, Cheeks, Robbins and McCarthy spoke in a company memo about “finalizing a new long-term plan to best position this storied company to reach new and greater heights in our rapidly changing world.”

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Asked about the rationale of devising a long-term plan while Paramount Global could be sold in the near future, Cheeks said, “When you don’t control those things, you strategize for a long term because we believe that CBS has an incredible amount of momentum right now, and we want to continue and stay that course. We have no idea whether a transaction could happen or not but regardless, we believe so strongly in CBS that we will keep doing what we are doing.”

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Shari Redstone, Paramount Global’s chairman of the board, has been in late-stage negotiations to sell her controlling stake in Paramount to David Ellison’s Skydance Media. Just as Cheeks was walking into the room for the CBS schedule presentation, news broke that Sony and Apollo have made their rumored joint bid for the company.

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CBS found itself in a similar merger-related corporate intrigue during the 2018 upfronts. Caught in a heated legal battle with Redstone to try and thwart her plans to re-merge CBS and Viacom, then-CBS CEO Leslie Moonves opened his remarks at the CBS upfront presentation with “So. How’s your week been? For years, I have told you that I will only be out here for a short time. This year, for the first time, I might mean it.”

A few months later, Moonves was out. CBS and Viacom were merged with Viacom’s Bob Bakish as CEO of the combined company, a role he held until stepping down Monday.

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In his brief prepared remarks at the top of Paramount’s earnings call Monday, Cheeks thanked Bakish “for his many years of leadership and steadfast support for all Paramount global businesses, brands, and people.” He also stressed that “Paramount global has the greatest content in the world,” adding, “We’ve got incredible assets as this company, both in what we produce and the amazing people that make it all possible. Everything we’ll build from that.”

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