CBS Chief: Our Advertisers Aren't Complaining About Ratings

Nina Tassler - CBS TCA - H 2012

Despite dips in the fall and CEO Leslie Moonves' mission to get paid for seven days of delayed viewing, CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler says the network's core business is strong.

CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler opened her session at the Television Critics Association press tour Saturday be pre-emptively telling gathered media reporters that the network is working with Warner Bros. to bring Two and a Half Men back for an eleventh season with the cast intact -- including Angus T. Jones and Ashton Kutcher. And a ninth season of How I Met Your Mother also is in the offing. “We’re very confident and excited that things will work out,” said Tassler, referring to HIMYM. “Almost everything it completed."

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Tassler added that she plans to meet with showrunners Carter Bays and Craig Thomas about how they will resolve the show’s central plot mystery next season.

“They had two plans in place,” she said. “One if we resolved this year and what we would do if we came back next year."

CBS has given full-season orders to dramas Elementary and Vegas and pulled comedy Partners early in the season. The network will pair the new cop drama Golden Boy with Blue Bloods on Friday beginning Feb. 26 while new unscripted series The Job will bow Feb. 9. The network also unveiled an ambitious summer slate that includes an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dome produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment.

Here are some highlights of Tassler's session:

The Newtown effect
CBS’ Criminal Minds has been the target of much criticism for the intense depravity and violence of its storylines. NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt singled it out during his TCA executive session. Tassler admitted that she does not let her 14-year-old watch Criminal Minds. And she said that the horrific shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14 “has shaken all of us to our core” and spurred a “renewed sensitivity” to violent content. But she asserted that the network’s dramas are “appropriately rated” and ultimately her job is to “pick the very best material we can." She added, “Nothing that is on our air is inappropriate and our intention is to continue to be a broadcaster that creates content for a vast and diverse audience."

What happened to Jennifer Esposito?
Asked if CBS is “tougher” on the actors that appear in its shows than some other networks (Charlie Sheen was famously fired from Two and a Half Men, and Jennifer Esposito was let go from Blue Bloods over health issues), Tassler noted that the network employs “them for many, many years.” And she added that she was “sorry to see [Esposito] go.” “We tried to resolve it,” she said. “It didn’t quite work out.”

Leslie Moonves' Live+7 mission
The CBS Corp. CEO has made it known that he wants advertisers to pay for seven days of delayed viewing. Right now, the official Nielsen currency upon which most ad deals are done is C3: commercial ratings with three days of delayed viewing. But CBS has eight series that add more than 3 million viewers when seven days of delayed viewing is factored in. And Moonves has been twisting arms privately to bend Madison Avenue to his will. “When Leslie is on a mission, he usually accomplishes it,” said Tassler. “And he’s on a mission.”

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Looking for Big Bang Theory-sized numbers
To the extent that the comedy’s record ratings this season might spur more development of multicamera comedies -- CBS’ stock-in-trade -- Tassler noted that “copying is the sincerest form of flattery, so we’re fine with that.” She also said reruns of the show in syndication “cycles back and gives us that bump on broadcast.”

About those falling 18-49 ratings
Every broadcast network save for The Voice-juiced NBC is down double-digits year-over-year among the 18-49 demographic that advertisers pay a premium to reach. But Tassler defended her network’s ratings among that demo while noting that the 25-54 demographic is equally important. “I wouldn’t say there’s been much slippage [among 18-49],” she said. “We’re not a niche broadcaster. For us, it’s still about getting everybody. Our advertisers are very pleased with our 25-54 numbers as well.”