President of CBS Marketing
George Schweitzer's role as chief marketing officer at CBS puts him in a unique position to not only observe but to help shape the ways in which technology is altering broadcast television. George developed his love of TV, news and media early in life and among his Franklin teachers, George cites math teacher and Coach Dave Berman as the one who inspired him most. After graduating from Boston University with a degree in Communications, he joined CBS, where he has remained for more than 30 years. Today, George is an unabashed technology fan who tries to be among the first to discover and use the latest in entertainment media. George shared his thoughts with us on recent trends in broadcast television.
As the marketing guy at CBS, it's my job to get people to watch our programs. Our department is like an ad agency with CBS shows as the clients – everything from 60 Minutes to Letterman, CSI to the NFL. Every day, our focus is on how people find out what's on television and how to get them to watch – an increasingly difficult task given the huge volume of content that is available and the plethora of ways people are consuming it.
I mention in my blog that cutting-edge products of today, such as flat-panel TV's or touch-screen iPods, will be relics in a few short years. I call it the sweeping wave of technology. Digital technology will continue to develop and enable us to do things that we haven't even dreamed were possible. News, entertainment, information, sports, education, and research will be routed in connecting people. Whether it's staying connected to your family, your job, your friends, it's all routed in simple communication and bringing people together. Connection is the key word.
What we're learning today is what we knew yesterday, and I presume what we'll know tomorrow, which is that big popular brands are magnets for audiences. People flock to the things they know and like the things that are familiar. In the beginning, which maybe was two years ago, people said it's all about user-generated content. They want to see videos of cats and dogs, babies, or people doing interesting things, but they won't watch anything else. That lasted about a year. And now what we have learned is that people are platform agnostic. It's all about the content. Professionally produced premium television shows, movies, sitcoms, series, classics, and news are the most viewed things online. If you missed CSI last week, you can download it somewhere. If you missed part of the college basketball game last night, you can download it. You're no longer a slave to the schedules of networks or stations. You're able to manage your viewing. That's a tremendous change.
Going forward I think big entertainment brands will continue to be the most popular. People do not care about the platform; they just want to see the programming. And that's a great thing for all of us who are programming developers, marketers, and producers. The entertainment economy really values our programming; it's a good export. What's affecting us are advertising sales. Advertising sales are down. Our biggest advertisers are automotives, banks, retailers, travel, and beverages – all these businesses are affected. So you have this dichotomy: the good news is that more people are using the medium, and more people are staying home, watching and enjoying television. Our ratings are up over last year, and we're the number one television network. The bad news is that we can't monetize it to the full degree that we would in a robust economy. But advertising sales will come back and when they come back, it will be good to be in the place where more people get their news and entertainment than anywhere else.