By Liana B. Baker
(Reuters) - Top-rated U.S. broadcast network CBS will bring comedian Robin Williams back to television next season to plug one of the few holes in its primetime schedule.
CBS Corp unveiled eight new series on Wednesday ahead of its upfront presentation in New York, an annual rite when broadcasters try to persuade advertisers to spend billions of dollars in commercials for their new shows.
CBS is riding a stable of megahits, including crime drama "NCIS" and comedies "The Big Bang Theory" and "Two and a Half Men." Last week, the network had five of the six highest-rated programs on broadcast primetime TV, according to Nielsen ratings.
As such, the network is bringing back 20 shows, more than any of its competitors. Chief Executive Les Moonves said CBS has never been so profitable, which helped drive the stock to an all time high on Tuesday.
"The key is getting hits on this network," Moonves told reporters. "Our schedule going into next year is going to be even stronger than it's ever been before."
The Williams vehicle "The Crazy Ones" also stars Sarah Michelle Gellar of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fame and is produced by David E. Kelly, best known for shows like "Ally McBeal."
Williams plays an eccentric advertising executive who works alongside his daughter, played by Gellar. The show will air Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET.
Williams rose to fame in the 1970s playing the wildly comic space alien Mork in the hit television show "Mork and Mindy." He later built a successful career in movies performing in comedies, dramas, big Hollywood flicks and low-budget art house films. He won an Oscar in 1998 for his role in "Good Will Hunting" and has been nominated three other times.
CBS, the ratings leader in total viewers, is projected to score the largest uptick in ad rates this upfront season at 6.5 percent, Barclays forecast.
Lifted by February's Super Bowl broadcast, the network also is poised to win the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 age group for the first time since the 1991-92 season.
Excluding the Super Bowl, though, CBS is facing a year-over-year ratings decline like its competitors Fox and ABC. Without the big game, CBS' same-day ratings for total viewers fell 5.7 percent, according to Nielsen data provided by Horizon Media.
With fewer holes to fill than peers, CBS presented a smaller lineup Wednesday. Other comedies CBS touted were "We Are Men" starring Tony Shalhoub; and "Mom," the latest from hit comedy producer Chuck Lorre.
Action film producer Jerry Bruckheimer is producing "Hostages," a suspenseful drama where Toni Collette plays a surgeon who is held hostage with her family and ordered to assassinate the President.
CBS will present clips of its new shows to advertisers in Carnegie Hall in New York on Wednesday afternoon. CBS shares fell 13 cents to $49.90 in morning trading. CBS shares hit an all-time high of $50.73 on Tuesday, and ended that session up 31 percent this year, in line with rallies for most of its media peers.
(Reporting By Liana B. Baker in New York and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by David Gregorio)