At its upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall, Paramount used stalwart CBS News program “60 Minutes” to sell advertisers on an integrated multiplatform content company that used to be called plain old CBS, before it was rechristened ViacomCBS.
The newsmagazine may not have seemed like the hottest property in a media industry enamored of streaming and constantly chasing young audiences. But the program is still among the most watched franchises on TV, and that was not lost on the media buyers in the audience.
Of course, “Late Night” host Stephen Colbert, making his customary appearance at the upfront, skewered the company’s revolving moniker. “Next week, it will be whatever Elon Musk names us,” he said.
Aside from the name game, the proceedings were remarkably familiar. Ad sales chief Jo Ann Ross served as self-deprecating master of ceremonies with a running gag on waiting for her shot to perform a song and dance number on the iconic Carnegie Hall stage. The cast of “Ghost” performed a real one. And she pressed the “60” correspondents into service as hosts and interviewers, as she promised to get the assembled audience out the door and on their way, to the afterparty at the old Barneys New York flagship on Madison Avenue in 60 minutes. (It was more like 90 minutes, but who’s counting?)
Scott Pelley narrated a “60”-esque piece about the company’s generation of young creatives, including “Blues Clues” host Josh Dela Cruz and “iCarly’s” Miranda Cosgrove and Marsai Martin, the 17-year-old actor and producer who is producing the Paramount+ movie “Fantasy Football.”
Lesley Stahl helmed a segment on the company’s reality offerings including “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “Love and Hip Hop,” “The Real World” revival, “The Challenge,” “Big Brother,” “Amazing Race” and, of course, the show that started it all, “Survivor.”
Norah O’Donnell interviewed Tyler Perry, who has several shows across the company, including the recently launched Paramount+ crime doc “Never Seen Again.” Perry was featured 13 years ago in an actual “60 Minutes” segment. At that time, he had yet to build his 300 acre, 12 soundstage production facility in Atlanta.
“CBS Mornings” host Gayle King helmed a segment dubbed “The Art of Reinvention,” which as “Yellowstone” star Kelly Reilly explained, was meant to showcase “Paramount’s legacy of reinventing genres like the Western.” (King hobbled onstage with an ankle brace and sparkly clog on her left foot and a strappy stiletto on her right, explaining that she is nursing an Achilles injury.)
Reilly was joined on stage by her costar Kevin Costner, making his second upfront appearance of the week after a cameo during the Fox upfront for his Fox Nation documentary about the wildlife of Yellowstone, the oldest of America’s national parks. The segment was basically a promotion for the growing Taylor Sheridan canon on Paramount+ which now includes “Yellowstone” prequel “1883,” starring Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and the upcoming Lone Ranger origin story “Bass Reeves,” starring David Oyelowo. Hill told the story of her friendship with Tammy Wynette, who she said threw a baby shower for her during her first pregnancy. And Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon introduced a clip of “George & Tammy,” a limited series about the volatile marriage of Wynette and George Jones.
The proceedings were punctuated by the usual impressive-sounding consumption stats that are ubiquitous during upfront week including: on social, Paramount’s content reaches half of all Americans 13 and older; there are more than 80 million monthly full-episode viewers across platforms, and Paramount+ is on track to have 100 million subscribers by 2024.
The presentation ended with a country music medley performed by Mickey Guyton and LeAnn Rimes. But it was James Corden, the soon-to-exit host of CBS’ “Late Late Show,” who got in the final word.
“It’s 10 past 5, so how is that ’60 Minutes’ thing working out for you?’” he asked the audience, before launching into a mostly heartfelt riff on his tenure on CBS’ late night comedy block, or as he put it, “a bridge between Cialis ads that run after midnight.” But although he will miss the fans and the people of CBS, he said, he was determined to look on the bright side. “[I] won’t have to cover another American presidential election, and that’s something to hang on to.”