Press Tour: CBS chief thanks NBC for Jay Leno move

01.14.09 9 years ago

John P. Filo/CBS

Television is a cyclical business and you’d think network heads would be able to downplay their schadenfreude. After all, today’s strutting peacock could just as easily become tomorrow’s plucked NBC Peacock.

Living for the moment, though, one of the ongoing trends of this Television Critics Association press tour is that nobody is shy about expressing their mockery, concern or incredulity at NBC’s decision to turn over nearly a third of its primetime schedule to Jay Leno starting next fall. Last week it was Richard Belzer calling it “the last gasp of a dying network.” Yesterday FOX Entertainment President Kevin Reilly dubbed it “a bit of a sad statement.”

And Wednesday it was CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler’s turn.

In her opening statement, Tassler acknowledged, “It was certainly the right move for their network, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t suggest that the currently network television system doesn’t work.”

Later, in the Q&A portion of the panel, she was a bit more frank about her reactions to the NBC plan.

“Our first reaction when they did that was to say ‘Thank you,'” Tassler said.

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

Indeed, CBS is currently getting strong performances from 10 p.m. dramas including “CSI: Miami,” “CSI: NY,” “Without a Trace,” “Numb3rs” and even, to a much lesser extent, from “The Unit” and “Eleventh Hour.” 

“So, for us, we looked at it and we said, ‘Why should one network’s failure in development redirect an entire scheduling strategy?’ For us, it was really important that we continue to develop for 10 o’clock. In the past, it’s been a real target for us, season-to-season. We’re going to continue to promote, develop and strengthen 10 o’clock,” Tassler promised.

After listening to the derision for a week now, the TCA will get to hear from NBC tomorrow afternoon. 

Stay tuned…

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