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CBS’ Tassler: 18-49 a ‘Shrinking Demo’ #TCA15

Stresses delayed, multiplatform viewing

Related: Complete Coverage of TCA Winter Press Tour

CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler stressed the importance of multiplatform and delayed viewing to the network during her executive session Monday at the TCA winter press tour.

“The overnight ratings continue to disappear in relevance, at the same times the number of ways that viewers watch our shows and how we get paid for them continues to increase,” Tassler said. Her comments followed those made by her and CEO Leslie Moonves Jan. 8 at CES calling overnight ratings “basically worthless.”

Tassler touted the network’s CBS All Access paid subscription app and the importance of delayed viewing. “It’s about finding all viewers wherever they are whenever they watch—live, three days, seven days, 30 days,” she said during the session. But she also insisted that the live-viewing schedule still matters.

“The emphasis on scheduling is still as important, because, you talk about our numbers, our live numbers, which are very very strong, that is how people discover shows and will sample shows,” she said. “So your scheduling decision still need to reflect a flow and still need to protect a new show in terms of its launch.”

Speaking to a group of reporters after the session, Tassler also played down the importance of 18-49 ratings.

“It’s a shrinking demo,” Tassler said. “Eighteen to 49 is getting smaller and smaller every year.” She stressed the importance of syndication and subscription video on demand rights. “When we sell our shows, Netflix, Amazon, they don’t buy it solely based on 18-49. It just doesn’t work that way.” Though it currently leads the broadcast networks this season in average total viewers in primetime, CBS is currently in second place to NBC in 18-49 Nielsen ratings.

Tassler also discussed the network’s plans for late night, announcing that Stephen Colbert’s first episode as the new host of Late Show will air Sept. 8. David Letterman’s last Late Show is scheduled for May. In the interim, Tassler said, CBS will air reruns of its primetime programming. She said that Colbert and his creative team “just moved into their offices” and are in the process of settling on the show’s format, which may vary somewhat from that employed by Colbert’s predecessor, David Letterman. Tassler said that Colbert’s show will include music and guests, but, “whether or not he’s going to start with an opening monologue, he’s working on that right now.” The network is open to Colbert experimenting with the format. 

“Part of the opportunity of being in business with a brilliant talent like Stephen Colbert is really letting him do what he wants to do,” she said. “We’re sitting back and sort of waiting for him to come to us and say what he has in mind."

Tassler also announced renewals for freshmen dramas NCIS: New Orleans, Scorpion and Madam Secretary—the last of which has performed well in total viewers, but struggled in 18-49 ratings. “Scheduling Madam Secretary between 60 Minutes and The Good Wife was a perfect fit," Tassler said in her opening remarks. “While Good Wife gets well-deserved acclaim, I’m a little surprised by the lack of attention this night has received overall.” She added, “Advertisers love this block.” 

Tassler did not renew the network’s fourth new drama, Stalker, but called it “a contender for next season. She did not mention freshman comedy The McCarthys until fielding a question later about what it would take for that show and Stalker to earn renewals. “Ratings is always a factor,” she said. “We’re going to see how the shows continue on this final half of the season.”

Other highlights from the panel included:

• Tassler repeatedly emphasized the importance of strong female characters to the network, returning to the topic multiple times when discussing the Supergirl project currently in development with Warner Bros. Discussing the planned format of the show, Tassler said it would not be a procedural and drew comparisons to the network’s existing female-lead dramas. “There’ll be cases,” Tassler said, comparing the format to The Good Wife and Madam Secretary. She added. “What we’ve been talking to the creators about is What is it about a female crime solver and a female superhero that is supremely unique to that show. And you know, we’re big feminists. It’s her intellect. It’s her skill. It’s her smarts. It’s all of those elements.”

• Asked about the network’s decision to cancel comedy The Millers, Tassler said, “We gave it an opportunity at the beginning of the season and it just didn’t take off.”

• Tassler first saw new Late Late Show host James Corden on Broadway in the play One Man, Two Guvnors. “This guy, it doesn’t matter who he talks to, they just fall under his spell.”