TCA: CBS' Tassler: We Believe In The Shows, The Network, The Business

Exec also defends changes to Emmy telecast, promises platform for Obama pressers

TCA: Complete Coverage of the TV Critics Press Tour

Pasadena, Calif. -- CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler stands behind the network's proven strategy of promoting a stable schedule full of scripted series, she said at CBS' portion of the TCA press tour Aug. 3.

"We believe in the shows, we believe in the network and we fundamentally believe in the business," Tassler told critics assembled in Pasadena. She also said after the presentation that she feels CBS doesn't necessarily get the respect it deserves for its across-the-board strength. "Finally we're in a place where we've got the goods," she said. "And we're going to make some noise."

During the presentation the exec ticked off a list of CBS' strengths, including the facts that CBS is the only network with a successful comedy block, has genre-leading shows in CSI, Survivor and 60 Minutes and that CBS has the top-rated scripted series this summer against other TV networks' spate of reality series. She also called NCIS, which gets a spin-off companion show this season, the "most underrated success story on television."

In addition, she touted CBS' positioning in the 10 p.m. hour heading into the new season, when NBC will strip its Jay Leno vehicle. She quipped that "whatever ratings they get they (NBC) are going to declare victory so it really doesn't matter."

But on more a serious note, she reiterated what she has said before about 10 p.m., that NBC's move represents opportunity for CBS, both at 10 and for The Late Show With David Letterman. "Right now 10 o'clock is a great business for us. We have great scripted shows at 10. So we're not going to fix what's not broken. We feel very good about the strength of the new shows going in [to fall]," she said. "Our three returning shows win their time periods. Strategically we feel we are poised and ready to grow. [The shows at 10 o'clock] generate billions of dollars for us in revenue. ... We have a huge commitment to scripted programming and will continue to follow that plan and be successful."

The block of NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles could be the combo to truly hold off Fox juggernaut American Idol, she added. The shows will air in a block and have several crossover storylines to start. "With NCIS, it's Idol-proof. Idol comes and goes, NCIS keeps its place," she said.

Tassler also defended the change to the Emmys telecast this year that will see some award acceptances pre-taped. One critic asked if the writers and producers protesting the move are right in characterizing the move as unfair. "I don't think we're being unfair to the creative community," she said. "Coming out of the telecast last year everybody in the business knew we had to make a change and change is not easy. The bottom line is the Emmys is about a celebration of the business."

She says the so-called time shift of certain awards is "being done in a very respectful way" and "will have no impact on the integrity of the program."

The changes are geared toward "creating and producing an exciting and entertaining program," she said. "If ratings are up more people are going to be watching the new shows," adding that increased Broadway ticket sales followed this year's higher-rated Tony's award show on CBS.

"More eyeballs means more people watching the new shows and watching television," she said.

As for other changes at the network, CBS announced earlier that the game show Let's Make a Deal will replace Guiding Lightafter the long-running soap goes off the air. To-be-determined repeats will air during the gap between the end of the soap and the Oct. 5 premiere of Deal.

Tassler also said CBS will continue to provide airtime for press conferences held by President Obama, while admitting they come at a price: "The truth is audiences depend on networks to get their news and information of national importance," she said. "Sure there's a financial hit. But we're all mindful of our responsibility to provide this service to audiences. It's our public service obligation. We have to do it."

When asked about her reaction to one other big news event of the broadcast TV business, the exit of Ben Silverman as co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios one week ago, she lobbed another quip, referencing a public comment once made by Silverman about "d" girls, or development executives: "I'm really just a D girl so I wouldn't really comment."