CBS Entertainment President Geller: ‘We Need Some Big Hits’

Glenn Geller, new entertainment president at CBS, concedes that today allows for a little bit of basking in his big promotion, but tomorrow is all about keeping CBS chugging along with new prime hits.

Geller, who was executive VP of current programming for CBS Entertainment and CBS Television Studios, didn’t hold back when discussing his top priorities, and CBS’ needs. “We need a drama hit, we need a comedy hit, we need a reality hit,” he told B&C. “We need some big hits. That’s really the priority.”

The 43-year-old said the key is coming up with a balance of the things CBS is known for, such as the procedural dramas that are a cornerstone of the network, and greenlighting projects that may not seem as much of a fit for the brand. “We’ll take risks and do the things we do really well. We’ll trust our gut to make the right decisions,” he said.

Geller got his start at CBS in 2001 as director and VP of current programming before moving over to the studio side as senior VP of current programming. Prior to CBS, Geller was in the drama department at 20th Century Fox Television. He notes that he had the nickname “Mr. CBS” while at 20th Century Fox Television after two of his projects, Judging Amy and The Education of Max Bickford, landed at CBS.

A native of northwest Indiana, Geller says he brings a broad Midwestern sensibility to the entertainment president’s chair. “I come from the heartland; I know what America watches,” he said. “We have to cast a wide net.”

Geller would not single out the brightest prospect from CBS’s rookie batch, which is shepherded by outgoing chairman Nina Tassler. Those include the dramas Supergirl and Code Black and comedies Life in Pieces and Angel From Hell. “These five series have to be the best we’ve ever done,” he said. “I really mean it. They’ve all got a shot.”

While CBS is focused on getting younger, Geller did not discount viewers outside the choice demo. “Younger is good, total viewers is good,” he said. “Total viewers does matter.”

Tassler will remain chairman through the year and stays on in an advisory role through 2017, and perhaps beyond. Geller credited Tassler for her creativity and energy, and for handing off a network that, while it needs some hits, boasts enviable stability.

“If I could bottle 10% of Nina’s passion and excitement for anything she does,” said Geller, “I would shower in it every day. She’s a force of nature. She’s a Nina tornado.”

Geller called the promotion “a dream come true.”

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.