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CBS exec: NBC's Leno experiment didn't work - TCA Report

by Joel Keller, posted Jan 10th 2010 10:39AM
Nina Tassler at the Winter 2010 TCA CBS exec sessionIt was a long, long, lonnnng first official TCA day yesterday, with CBS, Showtime, and the CW trotting out their newest and finest in front of the critics, followed by the epic Survivor anniversary party Bob mentioned the other day. I'll spill out some highlights later on. But I wanted to quickly start with CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler's very confident executive session.

Why was she so confident? Shows that are often winning their time periods helps. But she also seems to be in a "told ya so" mood about NBC and its Leno / Conan mess. In her opening remarks, for instance, she mentioned how good the freshman slate of shows was doing on every network... except NBC. During the Q&A, she said that the other networks "fared very well during this experimental phase for NBC."

When a reporter asked her why CBS's 10 pm stars didn't go on The Jay Leno Show despite the fact that the show isn't hurting their bottom line, she replied that because the show "was in theory competing with our 10 o'clock shows." Ah, those pesky words "in theory."

This was a woman who declared during the summer press tour that NBC was going to take any number from the Leno show and declare victory, so you can tell that she wasn't supremely happy about their decision, despite the ad revenue boost it gave her network. And her rancor continued yesterday, saying that NBC once declared that eight o'clock was going to be different, abandoned those plans, then said ten was going to be different.

"Ultimately, there is no substitute for developing great shows, working with great talent, and getting your shows on the air," she said. "Our creative community was to some degree bruised by this. A lot of people were put out of work, a lot of people really saw this as having a pretty negative impact on this business."

And she wasn't quite done: "To sort of turn that and say that their decision was a reflection on the whole network business was misguided." Ultimately, she said, the experiment didn't work.

Oof. In other CBS news:

  • As we mentioned yesterday, Three Rivers is officially cancelled.
  • Let's Make a Deal is doing "comparatively better" than Guiding Light did in the same daytime spot (not sure what that means... maybe the ratings are the same but the show is cheaper to make). As for what will replace As The World Turns, she wouldn't say. It could be a talk show, it could be a game show.
  • American Idol is "still the Death Star" of the schedule, despite its weakened ratings.
  • On Charlie Sheen and Two and a Half Men: "We're being very sensitive to the fact that it's a very personal and very private issue. There's been no impact on the network. I really have to credit chuck lorre; he runs a wonderful show, and it's business as usual for us."
  • She called Laurence Fishburne a "force to be reckoned with" and said that CSI is doing a better job at finding his character and where he fits in the grand scheme of things.
  • She said the only reason why the episode order for Numb3rs was cut back was to make room for the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Miami Medical on Fridays. Both that show and Medium are still being "considered for next year." Which means that it hasn't been cancelled yet, but isn't close to being renewed either.
  • According to Tassler, the network has a "high-class problem" in having to shoehorn so many desirable shows on their schedule. She included Rules of Engagement on that list, which makes me question if her problem is as "high-class" as she thought.
During the reporter scrum, she turned to the Letterman part of the late-night equation: "The growth for him has been terrific, and I think it's given him a bigger and more loyal fan base than he had already, so I think he'll do great" against any Leno incursion.
Does she think she's going to get angry letters from Alex O'Loughin fans for canning Three Rivers? "We love him too and want him to stay around for a long time. The reality is that Moonlight was a very Mick St. John-centric show, this was more of an ensemble."

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I, for one, can't wait until Rules of Engagement is back into the Monday night lineup. Nothing else they've tried works as well.

January 10 2010 at 2:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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