January 22, 2009 in Features

CBS reveling in top ratings position

By Maria Elena Fernandez Los Angeles Times
 

When NBC announced in December that it was creating a nightly 10 o’clock show for Jay Leno, CBS executives had one response.

“Our first reaction when they did that was to say thank you,” Nina Tassler, the network’s president of entertainment, told TV writers at the Television Critics Association’s annual media tour.

The move makes CBS and ABC the only broadcast networks airing scripted programming at that hour.

“Our 10 o’clock programs do extremely well,” Tassler said. “It’s a coveted time period. The creative community, quite frankly, was shocked when they first heard about it. You have so many top-tier talent that vie for that time period every year.”

More important, Tassler added: “Why should one network’s failure in development redirect an entire scheduling strategy?”

Tassler’s uncharacteristically pointed comments come at a time when CBS is on top in every aspect of the ratings race.

She began her presentation with introductory remarks that included debunking TV industry myths, such as the notion that comedy is dead. Exhibits A and B: “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Big Bang Theory,” which have grown markedly this season.

She also poked fun at critics who said viewers were tired of crime dramas. Exhibit C: “The Mentalist” phenomenon.

And she took a swipe at NBC.

“There’s a recent proclamation that we really just don’t buy into,” she said. “At the end of last year, one of our competitors made a bold programming move that the network television model was broken. It was certainly the right move for their network, but it shouldn’t suggest that the current system doesn’t work.”

In other announcements, Tassler confirmed that a spin-off of “NCIS” would be introduced this season within an episode of the hit drama.

And although CBS has cut the episode orders for freshman series “Eleventh Hour” and “Worst Week,” she said they were contenders to return next fall.


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