Tom, you have had a ringside view of the changing trends in the USA’s TV industry. Where were you when it all started and how has your journey at CBS TV Network been?
Well, Marzban, it has been a journey. Eleven years ago when I began travelling to India, Shanghai, Tokyo, Madrid and destinations all across the world, many governments and private enterprises were not familiar with CBS.
Though we have been #1 in America for a long time, our US-only access kept us out of international media discussions. That was my first challenge—educating potential partners about who we are and what we do. We now do business everywhere in the world with the assistance of teams such as the excellent one you’ve created at Mediascope.
During this time the biggest transformation in the US international travel is the emergence of a new generation, Millennials (21 to 40 years old), who complement the Baby Boomers (55 to 75 years old). While Boomers control the majority of American wealth, Millennials are younger and more culturally diverse.
They have travel patterns of their own that have influenced their parents, resulting in an expanded travel appetite among boomers. Pre-pandemic, we saw both the generations explore plenty of destinations not on their radar just 10 years ago. Emerging from the pandemic, we expect boomers to be the first to travel on long-haul trips to destinations such as India, as they have the money to do so.
The world of CBS, with its multiple platforms delivering non-stop entertainment, news & business to America, is fascinating. You will finish the 2019-2020 season as America’s most-watched network—12th straight year in a row. Can you give our readers some perspective on what that means in terms of numbers?
We’ve been blessed to be the most-watched channel in America for 12 straight years. Almost 99% of homes receive CBS and over 200 million watch the channel every month. CBS is home to #1 news program, 60 MINUTES, which has been running for the last 51 years, the #1 Comedy, BIG BANG THEORY, and the 2021 SUPER BOWL.
Other popular programs are NCIS and THE AMAZING RACE (a CBS original). We’ll be televising all the upcoming presidential debates. CBS was also home to the first televised debates between Democrat Senator, John F. Kennedy and Republica Vice President, Richard M. Nixon, in 1960. CBS was also home to the first televised debates between Democrat Senator, John F. Kennedy and Republica Vice President, Richard M. Nixon, in 1960.
Americans love to travel and CBS influences America. So how has CBS influenced international travel in general?
Programs such as THE AMAZING RACE showcase international destinations in a way no other in prime time can. That show has been America’s #1 travel program since 2001.
My team and I have worked with international partners such as Incredible India since 2009 to use all our assets—TV, digital, production, influencers, events and PR to provide multi-touch marketing in key markets such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and more.
CBS engages not just through its vast programming and advertising but also its stars, enormous network and local community programs. Tell us how you plan to expand your influencer game.
At CBS we’re proud of our storytelling legacy. When working with some of our team, you likely may hear them say: “Tell me a story”. We consider ourselves storytellers first and foremost. An example is when we used the CSI Los Angeles star, Daniel Henney, to tell the story about his home country, South Korea.
The TV screen has shrunk. Do American’s watch CBS on large flat screens or the smart slab in their palm? What’s the trend and how is CBS addressing it?
Overall, Americans are like most people around the world who are using their mobile devices to watch more video. Boomers consume more traditional TV and younger Americans do more streaming and viewing on their phones.
CBS recently merged with Viacom creating ViacomCBS. Together, we’ll be relaunching the CBS All Access streaming brand in Q1 under a new name. And one of our biggest changes is we have taken local news in all major cities to 24/7 streaming. We’re the only major channel in America to do that.
So while we stream national and international news like CNN, BBC and CNBC, we’re the only channel in America that gives viewers their local news 24/7 on any device.
Baby Boomers or Millennials—who do you see packing their bags for an experiential long break first?
I think it will be a mix of Boomers and Millennials. The former— who are wealthier, more secure in their employment or retired, and eager to venture out unencumbered by young children—is raring to go. Millennials because they are more often the key workers at thriving tech companies such as Amazon, Netflix, Apple and Facebook and they want to get out and about, too.
There is a perception that Americans across age groups will be the hardest to convince to travel long haul to India for a holiday post the pandemic. Would you agree? How should we be communicating and to which age group?
We’re in discussions about just that topic just now and my advice is to tell the story of how to safely see India. Americans, like travellers from across the world, want to do new things, taste new food and have new adventures —safely! We’re using our best creative team members to create stories that will compel Americans to travel to India.
When we work hand-in-hand with destinations, we can collaborate with successful results. Also, Americans are wary of China more than any destination. So India has a BIG opportunity right now.
How has CBS been helping India in its efforts to attract affluent travellers?
India was the first country I travelled to when I began developing our international business at CBS. Over the eleven years, we’ve worked with our partners in India, we have often focused their campaigns on the key markets where most Americans travelling to India live—New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. CBS’s unique city-centric broadcast ability allows us to do that.
I travel to India at least twice a year to meet with the Ministry of Tourism and all our friends to better understand how we can custom campaigns to fit perfectly. These trips have helped the storytellers at CBS understand how to position India as a safe place to visit, with more cultural, historical and culinary treats anyone could ever expect to find in one place.
I can’t wait to be back in India. My family plans to join me for an extended holiday after my business is completed. That will be in 2021.
You are responsible for monetizing CBS’s assets across the world. Which Asian economies have been active in 2020?
2020 has been a year where we’ve seen more B2B efforts. Seoul South Korea promoted its start-up culture to Silicon Valley, Wall Street and the LA movie industry. We helped them do that. Just recently we have seen more of that kind of business pick up.
Also, Qatar Airways and Taiwan Tourism have stayed active. Most of our international partners are putting campaigns together with our beginning Q4 and Q1 ’21.
On a different note: What has your personal lockdown experience been? What have you binged watched? What’s been running on your playlist? What are you reading?
San Francisco was the first big city in the US to shelter-in-place so we’ve been lucky to avoid what NY went through. I enjoy working from home as most of my work was remote, anyway.
I’m a sports fan, so watching golf on CBS has been fun. This weekend, CBS kicked off the American NFL football season and ratings were up 70%+. Very exciting! As for books, I read five or more books at a time, mostly non-fiction, and not always finishing any one. Next, I’ll be reading the new Bob Woodward book, RAGE, about President Trump.
Before you go one line that defines Mediascope for you…
Simply stated, there is no media partner in the world better than Mediascope. It begins with integrity, values and trust, and this extends straight from the top with you, Marzban, and throughout your company. I am proud and honoured to be your TV partner in the US and grateful to call you a friend.