Executive Suite: Nina Tassler
Riding a ratings wave, the CBS Entertainment president has a few ideas about how to stay on top.
CBS has defied broadcast gravity again by improving its overall primetime ratings health while most other networks have struggled just to remain steady. By staying true to its core strengths — engaging procedural dramas and broad-appeal comedies — CBS has landed in first place in the key adults 18-49 demo every week this season. Can the network put an end to Fox’s six-year win streak? Although she declined to discuss CBS star Charlie Sheen’s recent redecoration of an NYC hotel room, entertainment president Nina Tassler provided a few hints about what’s next for the network.
How much will you pay for my Twitter feed?
(Laughs.) Want a series? Obviously, they pay off.
When you bought $#*! My Dad Says, some thought it was a fluke, but since then you’ve bought a couple more ideas based on Twitter. What’s the appeal for CBS?
You have to look beyond the gimmick. When you look at its core, what that [$#*!] Twitter feed is all about is a son commenting on the outrageous things his father says, and that’s universal. The Twitter feed is great when you’re building on that kind of popularity, but the concept itself has to be relatable.
Are you on Twitter? Do you ever read it?
I’m not. I follow [$#*!] only because he’s hysterical and so many people do, but I’m not a tweeter.
Does CBS actively search the Internet for ideas, or were all these pitches?
[$#*!] was a pitch. … We’ve always had a philosophy that you just never know where the next big idea is going to come from — which is why we have always committed to development 365 days a year. We rarely say no to hearing a pitch … because you don’t know when someone is going to walk in with one idea and then, through the course of the pitch, can evolve into something else.
Some of your Web-based ideas have a pretty youthful sensibility. Are your comedy nights going to be split into, to borrow from Survivor, older and younger tribes?
Our comedies tend to skew younger. Our mantra is we are a broadcaster, so we are looking for big, broad-based hits, and within that success is going to come a younger demo. What’s interesting is our DVR show playback was eight years younger than live viewing during premiere week, which is great. It was like 14 years younger for How I Met Your Mother and CSI, which is impressive.
Is there a chance of expanding the Thursday comedy block to two hours before season’s end?
Maybe. We’re looking at all possible scenarios. Having a successful comedy block Thursday at 8 is exciting, but it’s really about allowing us to keep an eye toward next year and how can we continue to grow. So, maybe.
On the drama side, most of the acquisitions have been more traditional CBS procedural dramas. Is that pretty much the focus?
There is and always will be wild cards amongst the bunch. We’re very keyed in to what our audience responds to, and ultimately it’s not just about doing a procedural for procedural’s sake or just following a traditional franchise. Having a great character at the core or driving the emotional content of the show is really what resonated with the audience. Also what is really important and an operative word for us is “relevant,” and I think that the stories we’re telling, the characters’ lives we’re depicting, they’re relatable, and the stories have relevance.
What are your thoughts on the creative direction of Hawaii Five-0 since the pilot?
You have to educate the audience as to who is this new team. You also have to educate them as to who these characters are individually. The third objective is to really educate the audience and inform the audience of life [and] law enforcement on the island, and how it’s different from anyplace else. What does crime on Hawaii look like? The cases have been much more Hawaiian-centric, and you feel like you are hearing stories and seeing things you haven’t seen before in traditional law enforcement.
Is there any temptation to give Blue Bloods some sampling in another spot?
Maybe. One of the things we are very sensitive to is when a show was launched in a time period and you’re building out that audience base, you really want to continue to let it settle in and find a home there. But maybe as we look to next year we’ll think about it.
Do you feel you get enough credit in the media for the success of CBS?
I’m not a credit person. There's a thing I live by: There’s no limit to what a man or woman can do if she doesn’t mind who gets the credit. And the success of the network is the result of everybody’s hard work and effort.
So far you are winning the season in viewers and the demo. Is it possible you can overthrow Fox given the changes on American Idol?
It certainly is within our sights. We have always made a fundamental commitment to keeping our eyes really focused on the quality of the shows, making sure they’re supported across the network.
Will The Amazing Race be in HD next year?
Yes, yes, yes, we are doing Amazing Race in HD next year. I just announced it; there you go.