Nancy Tellem, CBS Paramount Network TV
She has been a key player in the successful launch of CBS Corp.When Nancy Tellem first joined CBS in 1997, she became part of the team that had the unenviable task of finding a way to improve the prospects of the lagging network. Tellem, of course, rose to the challenge -- CBS is riding high as the most-watched network for a fifth consecutive season and represents the epitome of stability in an industry full of turmoil.
Curiously enough, Tellem found herself in a similar situation when Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone split CBS' parent company in January. President and CEO Leslie Moonves charged Tellem and other key executives with improving the fortunes of the freshly spun-off CBS Corp., which was saddled with slower growth divisions than its corporate sibling, the "new" Viacom.
"I love coming into places where the expectations are low," Tellem says.
In a mere eight months, CBS' stock was outperforming Viacom's, with much of the credit going to Tellem.
In addition to her role in launching CBS Corp., she also oversaw the autumn debut of the CW, which emerged from the ashes of the WB Network and UPN, and in the digital space, she shepherded the inception of CBS' broadband channel Innertube and brokered its first wireless deals.
"It's been quite a year," Tellem says. "This has been one of the most exciting times that I have experienced. I see not only how well we're doing at the network and the studio, I see so much opportunity for growth."
In her position as president of CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group, Tellem's focus is on developing new content, which she believes will drive business opportunities and serve multiple platforms. As part of that effort, CBS Par TV is stepping up its efforts in developing for cable, following the success of its series for USA Network, "The 4400."
In the online space, CBS launched Innertube seven months ago as an output for repurposed network content, original programming and shows from the CBS library.
"It all starts with our network and how we can migrate viewers to Innertube and bring (our) brand onto the platform," Tellem says. "We see this as a wonderful new opportunity for reaching out to viewers."
With a similar rationale, Tellem orchestrated CBS' entry into wireless, signing deals with Amp'd Mobile and Verizon.
"It's an extraordinary opportunity to target the audience and be with them 24 hours a day in a personalized relationship," she says.
In addition to extending its programming to mobile devices and the Internet -- on Amazon, CBS.com, Google and Innertube -- CBS is changing the decades-old scheduling rules to accommodate audiences' changing viewing patterns. Last month, the network announced it will air freshman drama "Jericho" in two half-seasons of all-original episodes.
"We're trying to understand and be responsive to our audience," Tellem says.
The audience is responding with loyalty, keeping CBS No. 1 in total viewers in the face of increased competition. CBS had six series -- more than any other network -- returning for a second season this fall, and one of them, "Criminal Minds," is showing tremendous growth in its sophomore year.
So, as she explores the emerging new opportunities in the digital world, "We'd also like to be No. 1 (with viewers) 18-49 and want to make sure we have exciting and buzzworthy shows on the schedule," she says.
Tellem also is keeping an eye on the CW, a joint venture between CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. Entertainment that reunited her with Warner Bros.' Barry Meyer and Bruce Rosenblum, old friends from her 10-year stint at Warner Bros. TV. She says her first experience creating a network was a "formidable challenge" and an "amazing experience."
But of all the challenges, none is greater than juggling work and family -- a husband, three sons and two dogs.
"It is still a constant struggle to make sure I'm reaching the right balance in my life and work," she says.
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