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The longest-tenured network chief is stepping down.
After 18 years with the company and 11 at the network helm, CBS entertainment chairman Nina Tassler announced Tuesday that she’d be stepping down at the end of the year. CBS’ current chief Glenn Geller, himself a 14-year company veteran, will move into the role of entertainment president, working closely with Tassler during the transition. Tassler will then turn her attention to her other passions, which include publishing and theater projects, though she’s expected to remain in an advisory role at CBS through at least 2017.
That CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves is elevating from within says as much about CBS’ corporate culture as it does the challenges of the broadcast environment. Which is to say the top network job is no longer the most desirable, with headaches that include free-falling ratings, content restrictions and an increasingly fractured landscape that features some 400 original shows. Still, Tassler, who is said to have approached Moonves with the desire to move on this summer, walks away from the job after an enviable run. Her network is often touted as the most consistently reliable of the broadcast networks, and it has been the most watched of the Big Four for 12 of the past 13 years.
In recent years, she has overseen an overhaul of the network’s late-night schedule, with celebrated new additions Stephen Colbert and James Corden, and a push into high-end scripted programming during the summer with programming including Under the Dome, Extant and Zoo. During her tenure, she has also been responsible for a wide range of in-season offerings, from reliable juggernauts (NCIS, CSI, Criminal Minds) to monster comedies (The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men) to critical darlings (The Good Wife, How I Met Your Mother).
In readying the slate for CBS’ upcoming season, Tassler was often most vocal about Supergirl, for whom the female empowerment storyline was one she felt particularly passionate about. Together with Variety’s Cynthia Littleton, Tassler has been prepping a book, What I Told My Daughter, Lessons from Leaders on Raising the Next Generation of Empowered Women, on the side. The collection of essays, which aims to help mothers raise strong, independent and empowered daughters, is due out next year. Tassler, a self-proclaimed theater nut, is said to have plans in that arena as well.
“CBS is a special place,” she said in making an announcement that should catch many in the industry by surprise, particularly since Tassler signed a new contract just last year. “For the past 18 years, I’ve been blessed to be part of an amazing team that has lifted this network to an enviable run of success. It all starts at the top with Leslie, my boss, mentor and friend for two and a half decades, and a leader who inspires excellence in every part of the creative and business process. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Leslie, my colleagues at CBS and all the actors, producers and writers who were part of this incredible journey. I will always love this place, yet it is time for my next chapter, and I’m thrilled that I can pursue my other creative interests while still being part of the company. I pass the baton to Glenn with great confidence and pride. He is an outstanding leader with great respect for the artistic process and a clear vision for programming success.”
Moonves, whom Tassler followed from Warner Bros., called their relationship one of “the proudest partnerships of my professional life.” He added of his friend and colleague of 25 years, “We’ve enjoyed amazing success together, both here and at Warner Bros., and it’s been a privilege to watch her talents and accomplishments grow. Nina is a creative executive with the instincts of an artist, so it came as no surprise that she would eventually want to express those talents beyond television. All of us here are grateful and proud of CBS’s success with Nina leading our entertainment programming, and we will be the biggest fans for all her future endeavors.”
In Geller’s new role, he’ll report directly to Moonves, and will be responsible for entertainment programming for primetime, daytime and late night, as well as program development in all genres, including comedy, drama, reality, specials and long-form. Since June of 2013, the well-liked executive has served as Executive VP of Current Programming for the Entertainment Group, overseeing the company’s combined network and studio current department and creative affairs for more than 30 primetime series on CBS and The CW.
“Glenn Geller is an accomplished programming executive who has been a major part of CBS’s success since 2001,” noted Moonves. “When Nina told me her plans, we both knew we had an obvious successor in our own ranks. Glenn brings outstanding skills to all parts of the creative and production process, and he has led large programming teams both at the network and studio that oversee our biggest franchises and hit programs. He’s worked under the best with Nina and David Stapf, and is very ready to assume this larger role.”
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