As part of ongoing cost cutting at Paramount and slimming down at CBS, Kelly Kahl is exiting as CBS Entertainment president after decades at the network, while Thom Sherman, senior executive vice president of programming, is stepping down from his post.
Amy Reisenbach, the network’s head of current programming, will essentially replace both Kahl and Sherman at once as the network’s new entertainment president.
Kahl’s pending departure, which will occur by the end of the year, was announced in an email from CBS CEO George Cheeks to staff Wednesday, as well as a note from Kahl himself, both of which were obtained by Variety. That was quickly followed by the news of Sherman’s exit and shift to a production deal at CBS Studios — which also came with memos from Sherman and Cheeks.
Rounding out the busy day of restructuring at CBS — which came simultaneously with a new round of layoffs at parent company Paramount Global — was the news of Reisenbach’s promotion. Cheeks stated that Kahl’s exit is “part of a restructuring and streamlining of leadership” at the broadcast network.
Kahl has been president of CBS Entertainment since May 2017, leading the entertainment division including marketing and promotion, digital/interactive, diversity and inclusion, publicity, research and scheduling. He first joined CBS in January 1996 as VP of scheduling, moving over from Warner Bros. TV. He later became senior exec VP of CBS Primetime, and was instrumental in crafting the network’s rebirth in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“The wondrous and improbable journey that started for me here 26 years ago has come to the finish line. I’ll be leaving CBS at the end of this year,” Kahl wrote in his memo. “It has been an absolute honor and privilege to work at CBS, america’s most watched network. (I’ll never get sick of hearing that.) I’ve lived a TV fan’s dream to work with the most talented writers, producers, and actors in television. Most importantly, i’ve loved being in the trenches alongside all of you — the finest executives and employees in show business. I want to thank every single person with whom i worked for your great efforts, creativity, and professionalism, all of which helped make this tremendous, pioneering network #1 for nearly 20 straight years. This place is special and so are its people.”
As for Sherman, he joined CBS (from The CW) in 2017 as senior exec VP, programming, overseeing creative affairs for entertainment programming in all dayparts and genres including comedy, drama, reality, daytime, late night and specials. Before that, from 2006 to 2017, he was exec VP at The CW; president of J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Prods. from 2004 to 2006; and from 1996 to 2004, Sherman worked in drama series development at ABC.
Said Cheeks: “We are entering into an overall producing deal spanning CBS Entertainment and CBS Studios with Thom continuing to develop and produce programming for the Network and other parts of Paramount Global. Thom’s creative instincts about what kinds of shows CBS viewers love are clear to all of us. I’m glad that we’ll continue to draw upon those instincts and his programming talents in both a producing and advisory capacity.”
Meanwhile, Reisenbach, who has been with CBS since she began as manager of current programs for CBS Studios in 2005, is now reporting directly to Cheeks as the new head of all CBS creative divisions across primetime, daytime and late night.
“Amy is a brilliant, creative executive and an incredible, highly collaborative leader who has worked closely with all parts of the Network and our Studios partners for many years,” Cheeks said in a statement accompanying the official announcement of Reisenbach’s promotion Wednesday. “She is a passionate advocate for writers, producers and the creative process, with proven programming instincts for what it takes to make and sustain highly successful television series. She also continues to be a strong proponent for diversity and inclusion and a key figure in the advancements CBS has made in front of and behind the camera in this area.”
Reisenbach added in her own statement: “I want to thank George, Kelly Kahl, David Stapf and Thom Sherman for being amazing bosses and colleagues, and supporting my growth path to this moment. This Network means so much to the people who work here, the writers and producers who call it home, and the viewers who fall in love with our series. I’m excited and proud to continue our tradition of excellence that everyone at this Network strives to exceed every day.”
See Cheeks’ memo to staff about Kahl in full below:
Team – I want you to be aware of a significant transition that’s happening today. As part of a restructuring and streamlining of leadership at CBS Entertainment, Kelly Kahl, our esteemed colleague and president of the division, will be leaving CBS by the end of year.
Below is the note that Kelly sent to his team this morning. We’ll have more information about the new leadership structure very soon, but right now I really want to focus on Kelly and the incredible legacy he leaves at this network.
Kelly is without peer in the broadcast television business. He is the architect of primetime schedules that have made CBS #1 for 19 of the last 20 seasons. He is the masterful and fearless scheduler who moved SURVIVOR and CSI to Thursday, changing the landscape of that night after a decade of NBC dominance.
As Entertainment president, he introduced hit shows such as THE NEIGHBORHOOD, THE EQUALIZER, NCIS: HAWAI’I, three FBIs, FIRE COUNTRY and GHOSTS and has been the passionate steward of CBS’ hit reality franchises. More broadly, Kelly has been a fierce advocate for the vitality of broadcast television while being a steady and respected network leader through the good times as well as turbulent periods.
Without question, Kelly has dedicated the last 26 years to building CBS and leaves it positioned for even further success. He has been humble, gracious and generous with his peers every step of the way.
On a personal note, I want to thank Kelly for being a valued colleague and sounding board over the past two and a half years.
Please join me in heartily thanking Kelly for all of his contributions to CBS and in wishing him all the best in the future.
Here is Cheeks’ memo regarding Sherman:
Team – As I wrote to you earlier, we are restructuring and streamlining the leadership team at CBS Entertainment. As part of this, our colleague Thom Sherman will be transitioning out of his role as Senior Executive Vice President, Programming by the end of this year. Below please see the note Thom sent to his team earlier today.
At the same time, I’m happy to share that Thom will remain connected to CBS. We are entering into an overall producing deal spanning CBS Entertainment and CBS Studios with Thom continuing to develop and produce programming for the Network and other parts of Paramount Global. Thom’s creative instincts about what kinds of shows CBS viewers love are clear to all of us. I’m glad that we’ll continue to draw upon those instincts and his programming talents in both a producing and advisory capacity.
Thom has been a highly respected creative executive at CBS, The CW and as President of J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company. His relationships, skillsets and experience offer great value as a producer in this new capacity.
Please join me in thanking Thom for all his contributions to the Network and wishing him well in his new CBS role.
And here is Cheeks’ note announcing Reisenbach’s promotion:
Team – I’m excited to share that I have named Amy Reisenbach the new president of CBS Entertainment. Please see the press release announcing her appointment below.
I’m so happy to have Amy bring her talent, expertise and collaborative spirit to this position and lead this vaunted division. In her previous role as head of current programming, Amy’s creative skills helped launch and sustain scores of hit television series, including many still on the Network today. She is beloved and respected by writers, producers and colleagues alike and is a passionate champion of our ongoing efforts to diversify CBS on screen and behind the camera.
Amy has been with CBS since 2005, rising through the ranks in various programming roles at CBS Studios and CBS Entertainment. She loves CBS and the people here and will carry that enthusiasm into collaborations with other CBS divisions and throughout Paramount Global. I’m confident that while we continue to navigate the rapid change in our industry, she will embrace with high energy our dual mission to be the leading broadcast network and a key driver of our streaming platforms.
There has been a lot of news today. Our teams in the Entertainment division have new leadership. I want to thank everyone at CBS, particularly our Entertainment teams today, for their amazing adaptive spirit as we negotiate this change together. And, of course, I want to again recognize Kelly and Thom for their significant and lasting contributions to the Network, and welcome Amy to her new role.
Below is the full note Kahl sent to staff:
the wondrous and improbable journey that started for me here 26 years ago has come to the finish line. i’ll be leaving CBS at the end of this year.
it has been an absolute honor and privilege to work at CBS, america’s most watched network. (i’ll never get sick of hearing that.) i’ve lived a TV fan’s dream to work with the most talented writers, producers, and actors in television. most importantly, i’ve loved being in the trenches alongside all of you — the finest executives and employees in show business. i want to thank every single person with whom i worked for your great efforts, creativity, and professionalism, all of which helped make this tremendous, pioneering network #1 for nearly 20 straight years. this place is special and so are its people.
i started here as a scheduler when we were in 3rd place and loved battling into 1st, but i’m especially proud of our accomplishments during my run as entertainment president over the past five years; we delivered tangible improvements in diversity and inclusion in front of and behind the camera, held our teams together and focused during the pandemic, and launched numerous hit series that maintained CBS #1 status.
i’ve been fortunate to develop strong friendships with many of you and will cherish memories of great adventures at upfronts, press tours, location shoots, final fours and super bowls. i hope and trust those bonds will continue going forward.
my very best to all of you. it’s been a magnificent ride and i’m excited to see what’s next. until then, i hope to see you at the underground…
And here is Sherman’s memo to staff:
This morning’s news was a shock, and I know you’re all as saddened by it as I am. Kelly is the brother I never had, my friend, and the best work-partner I could ever have imagined. I am beyond thankful for his resolute leadership, guidance, collaboration, and humor, and it’s hard to fathom that he and I won’t be doing this together anymore.
And, alas, I too will be moving on to a new phase of my career next year.
It has been my distinct privilege to have worked with all of you these past 5 1/2 years. You are a remarkable group of immensely talented people, the best in the business at what you do, and I am extremely honored to have stood with you as season-after-season together we programmed America’s #1 Network.
Look at just a few of the many things we accomplished:
–We put together a slate of shows that is the envy of the Business with the #1 new drama on Broadcast 5 years running, and this year the top 3 new shows. We also launched the #1 new comedy 4 straight seasons, and now last year’s #1 hit, “Ghosts,” is fighting it out with one of our other great hits, “Young Sheldon,” for the #1 OVERALL Broadcast comedy slot. Powerful.
–CBS is now recognized for its diversity in front of, and behind, the camera; an incredible turnaround of which we should all be very proud.
–We worked hard to change the culture inside CBS to be more inclusive, welcoming, warm, fun, and (relatively!) stress-free. Tremendous progress achieved.
But more importantly than the above successes we shared, your talents are only outweighed by your KINDNESS. I am blessed to have worked with all of you really super exceptionally extraordinarily NICE and CARING people. I thank you all for helping create an inspiring and nurturing environment and for the dedication and brilliance with which you all do your jobs. I will carry you all in my heart as we continue our journeys, and I look forward to furthering our friendships.
Now go throw a Thom’s Tear up on the board.
And play well.