CBS adds NFL football, spinoffs to primetime TV lineup

By Liana B. Baker
The CBS building in New York
The CBS building in New York December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

By Liana B. Baker

(Reuters) - Top-rated U.S. television network CBS unveiled on Wednesday a fall primetime lineup with added National Football League games, a heavy dose of spinoffs and dramas, and a final season of its long-running comedy hit "Two and a Half Men."

CBS leads in total viewers with an average audience of 10.8 million in primetime, but it fell below NBC and Fox, which aired the NFL's Super Bowl this season, in the demographic most prized by advertisers, ages 18 to 49.

The network will add seven NFL telecasts, mostly on Thursday nights, after signing a one-year contract to pick up games that already air on the league-owned NFL Network. NFL games regularly rank among the most-watched programs on U.S. television.

The upcoming schedule "is pretty ambitious on our part," CBS CEO Leslie Moonves told reporters. "Having football makes it better."

CBS, a unit of CBS Corp, will also roll out spinoffs of naval intelligence drama "NCIS," on Tuesdays, with a version set in New Orleans. There are now three editions of NCIS on the network. "CSI: Cyber," a high-tech spinoff of its crime scene mainstay CSI, will air on Sundays.

Another new CBS drama is "Madam Secretary," starring film actor Tea Leoni as a newly appointed Secretary of State, based loosely on Hillary Clinton as well as Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright.

CBS' new comedy entrants were lean, with only one comedy added for the fall, "The McCarthys," about a sports-crazed Boston family. Later in the year it will add Matthew Perry's "The Odd Couple."

CBS is the third network Perry has tried to score a post-"Friends" hit with. His previous shows on NBC and ABC were both canceled after less than a year.

CBS' new shows will complement a stable of hits including "NCIS," the top-rated drama, and "The Big Bang Theory," the top-rated comedy.

"Two and a Half Men" will air for a 12th and final season, CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler said. The show stars Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher, who replaced Charlie Sheen after he was fired in 2011 for erratic off-screen behavior as well as a vicious public dispute with the show's producers.

CBS will present clips of its new shows to advertisers in New York on Wednesday afternoon as part of the upfronts, an annual rite when broadcasters try to persuade advertisers to spend billions of dollars of commercial time during their new shows.

CBS shares were down 2 percent to $55.85 in mid-afternoon trading.

(Reporting by Liana B. Baker, additional reporting by Lisa Richwine, editing by G Crosse)