TCA: Tassler Says CBS Sticking With Pilot Season

Pasadena, Calif.--Nina Tassler, CBS entertainment president, reaffirmed the network’s commitment to the traditional pilot season process Wednesday during her executive session at the TCA winter press tour. Tassler’s comments came two days after her Fox counterpart Kevin Reilly called pilot season “highly inefficient.” 

“I think you can’t make these broad generalizations. Perhaps pilot season for them [Fox] is more challenging,” Tassler said when asked about Reilly’s comments. “For us it’s a part of the process that does work.”

Tassler pointed to franchise series such as CSI and How I Met Your Mother as examples of how the pilot season process has helped CBS program successfully. She discussed Big Bang Theory cocreator Chuck Lorre’s decision to reshoot with Kaley Cuoco after watching the original pilot featuring another female lead, remarking that the show's success would  have not have happened “had we not piloted.”

Tassler also announced that the network had renewed its entire daytime lineup - which includes soaps The Bold and the Beautiful and The Young and the Restless, game shows The Price Is Right and Lets Make a Deal and talk show The Talk

In addition to announcing premiere dates for Extant and the second season of Under the Dome (July 2 at 9 p.m. and June 30 at 10 p.m., respectively), Tassler touted upcoming Mark Burnett-produced miniseries The Dovekeepers, and the network's continued push into the limited series world. 

“It’s really about proving new economic models. Certainly Dome opened the door for us,” she said. “We’re able to take a show like Dovekeepers and monetize it in a different way. It’s just building an economic model around the title, something that has value and creating a financial structure that allows you to produce that kind of program.”

In her opening comments, Tassler talked about the increasing impact of time-delayed viewership on the industry. “Time-shifted viewing continues to soar,” Tassler said, emphasizing that video on demand has seen a sizeable jump in the past year. “Three-day DVR playback lists now look a lot like 7-day playback lists from a year ago.” 

When asked later in the session about CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves’ professed affection for live + 30 ratings and whether it will impact future programming decisions, Tassler referenced the musical Damn Yankees, saying “Whatever Leslie wants, Leslie gets.”

Other highlights from Tassler’s executive session included:

--Asked about late night and NBC’s big promotion of the new The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon premiering in February, Tassler expressed faith in Late Show host David Letterman. “Look, Dave is an icon at the top of his game. Internally we’ve been preparing for that move for a while.”

--Tassler fielded several questions related to former BigBrother contestant Aaryn Gries’ racist and homophobic comments last summer. “I was mortified by the comments Aaryn made,” Tassler said. She went on to defend the format and structure of Big Brother. “We have to remember that it is a social experiment. You are taking people from very disparate walks of life and confining them in a house for a finite period of time.”

--Speaking to reporters on stage after the end of her session, Tassler was asked about Damon Lindelof’s remark at TCA last week that “cable is far superior” to broadcast. “I want to hear Damon Lindelof complain about broadcast when he goes to the bank to cash his Lost checks,” she said.

(Stephanie Robbins contributed to this story.)