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TCA Press Tour: Nina Tassler finds it's CBS' turn to gloat

January 14, 2009 | 11:50 am

Nina290_jlea6onc When NBC announced in December that it was creating a nightly 10 p.m. show for Jay Leno, CBS executives had one response:

"Our first reaction when they did that was to say thank you," CBS President of Entertainment Nina Tassler said at the TCA press tour Wednesday.

The move makes CBS and ABC the only broadcast networks airing scripted programming at that hour.

"Our 10 o’clock programs do extremely well," Tassler said. It’s a coveted time period. The creative community, quite frankly, was shocked when they first heard about it. You have so many top-tier talent that vie for that time period every year. "

More important, Tassler added, "why should one network’s failure in development redirect an entire scheduling strategy? For us, it’s really important that we continue to develop for 10 o'clock."

Tassler’s uncharacteristicly pointed comments — and there were more — comes at a time when CBS is on top in every aspect of the ratings race. (The network even held its own against "American Idol" Tuesday night, as it has in seasons past.) But NBC, which used to be the bully at TCA, picking on all its rivals, now seems to be the TCA punching bag.

Tassler began her executive session with introductory remarks that included debunking TV industry myths, such as the notion that comedy is dead. Exhibits A and B: “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Big Bang Theory,” which have grown markedly this season.

She also poked fun at critics who proclaimed that viewers were tired of crime dramas. Exhibit C: “The Mentalist.”

She also took a swipe at NBC.

"There’s a recent proclamation that we really just don’t buy into,” she said. “At the end of last year, one of our competitors made a bold programming move that the network television model was broken. It was certainly the right move for their network, but it shouldn’t suggest that the current system doesn’t work.”

Asked by a TV critic to shed light on what it says about the TV industry that CBS is run by a former studio chief (Leslie Moonves) and that Jeff Zucker, NBC’s chief, is a former daytime producer, Tassler said: "There’s an emphasis on content. It’s always about the quality of the storytelling. There’s a fundamental respect for the creative talent of the community.... With regard to the way that other companies are run — I mean, I haven’t worked at other companies, so I don’t know — there is a real focus on preserving the creative integrity and making sure we look to build our brand, introduce voices to network television and a fundamental belief in the network TV business."

In other announcements, Tassler confirmed that a spinoff of "NCIS" will be introduced this season with an episode of the hit drama. Although CBS cut the orders for freshman series “Eleventh Hour” and “Worst Week,” Tassler said they are contenders to return next fall.

— Maria Elena Fernandez

Photo: CBS