Press Tour: July 2014 CBS Executive Session Live-Blog
Good thing news broke on Wednesday that the cast of "The Big Bang Theory" is still negotiating with CBS and WBTV, because without that, there wouldn't have been much excitement to be expected from Thursday (July 17) morning's Television Critics Association press tour panel with CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler.
So we've got that to look forward to. We can also probably expect some queries about Thursday Night Football, the early performance of Halle Berry's "Extant" and maybe CBS' difficulties launching midseason shows (but probably not).
Click through for the full live-blog...
9:02 a.m. CBS starts promptly.
9:02 a.m. CBS is America's most watched network for the 11th time in 12 years.
9:03 a.m. "I admit it, I'm still really pissed about 'The Good Wife,'" Tassler says, trumpeting CBS' Emmy nominations, most for any broadcast network.
9:03 a.m. Tassler is a fan of new platforms, saying that the winners are viewers, content creators and the company bottom line. New platforms are complementing one-another.
9:04 a.m. Tassler uses "Elementary" as proof of the importance of DVR and VoD viewing, where it rises to 14 million weekly viewers, far better than what we're seeing live.
9:05 a.m. "The term 'midseason' has been retired," Tassler reminds us. And she says, again, that looking at the overnight ratings is limiting. "NCIS" is the most-watched drama on TV. It's the most watched show in the world. Etc. "Our competitors may call it 'old-skewing,' but we call it a billion dollar franchise," she says.
9:07 a.m. Question time! The first question is about media industry consolidation. She says that we're in a robust creative era. She says the best voices and most creative content always win. Or something. That's not really an answer.
9:08 a.m. "Every season we have shows that work, some that don't work," Tassler says, noting that without that cycle, they can't put new shows on the air. "Some shows take off and some don't," she says of duds like "Bad Teacher" and "Friends with Better Lives." Well, OK. She notes that they're able to look forward, so they're able to see more episodes, more scripts, etc and they can judge the strength of the creative. "You like what you're seeing on air, but you don't necessarily have the confidence..." she says.
9:10 a.m. Our first "Big Bang Theory" question. "I just love being able to answer these questions year after year," she says, noting that it's proof that the shows are successful. She's sure they'll work something out, noting "These deals manage to get worked out somehow miraculously year after year."
9:11 a.m. The programming decision to hold "Battle Creek" is about spreading the wealth across the years and whatnot. "It's usually nicer to roll something out later in the season because it isn't so cluttered," she says, hoping for that advantage. Mostly, though, they had a certain number of slots in the fall and decided to hold it.
9:12 a.m. What were the lessons from "How I Met Your Dad" and it not getting picked up? She says the lessons they learned were the lessons applied to developing any show. It's about storytelling and casting and everything. "We adore those guys," she says of the creators. "We want very much to stay in business with them." She talks about how busy pilot season is in terms of casting. "We'd love the opportunity to take another shot," she tells us, offering the reminder that "Big Bang Theory" was a reshot pilot.
9:13 a.m. Does she want Emmy category changes? "It's a very complicated process," she says, praising the 22 episodes of "Good Wife" and its demanding and difficult production schedule. Tassler jokes about wanting to bring back the Cable ACE Awards and agrees that changes should be looked at.
9:15 a.m. Why did CBS go back to "Battle Creek" after 12 years? She tells us the story of the year Vince Gilligan sold them the script, saying they always loved the tone and the sensibility. They did a cast contingent pilot that year, but couldn't cast it. This was the first year that he was actually free.
9:16 a.m. A very loaded question of "The Millers," why it was renewed but "Friends With Better Lives" was cancelled quickly. Is CBS giving a higher bar for success to shows the network doesn't own? "We buy from every supplier," Tassler emphasizes. "We will never ever, ever discriminate solely based on ownership," she says. "You have to make your decision based on content," she says, praising the story material embedded in the "Millers" DNA. "We just felt that there are more stories yet to be told within that family-centric comedy," she says, noting that Sean Hayes is joining this season.
9:18 a.m. Why are CBS' comedies so darned white? Tassler wants to note that diversity is across the entire network and every day-part. She swears that from "sun-up to sun-down," CBS has a diverse schedule. She references Halle Berry, Maggie Q, Lucy Liu, "The Talk," etc. She says the network has no quotas and they're never "happy" and that the network always looks to add more diversity.
9:20 a.m. A diversity follow-up, especially after ABC's showcase. Again, Tassler reminds the questioner about Halley Berry. "We don't look at fall as the defining mark of giving us our diversity quota," she says. "Also, it is a goal of ours, it is a part of the conversation, not just in front of the camera, but behind the camera," she says. "It's always a conversation and it's always a goal," she says.
9:22 a.m. OK. This questioner is actually incorrect about the lack of diversity. CBS has some very white shows, but... Yeah. Grumble.
9:22 a.m. "The McCarthys" has a young gay man at the center, but Tassler says that it's somewhat autobiographical for the creator, so he's not going to change things. Cote de Pablo also counts toward diversity and she's doing "Dovekeepers" for 2015.
9:24 a.m. OK. Leaving diversity behind. Why does CBS do so well with multi-cam comedy? "There's no doubt about it. It's a tougher form. You really have to know how to write your jokes," she says. She says that casting is hard, because some people who are enthusiastic about doing multi-cam maybe aren't able to do them. "We are particularly good at it and I think we have a very keen ability to identify those talents who can really deliver that type of comedy," she says, reminding us that "The McCarthys" was originally developed as a single-cam, but they preferred the rhythms in a multi-cam format. She references "How I Met Your Mother" as a show that wasn't a traditional multi-cam that the CBS audiences responded to. Chuck Lorre "delivers very funny and very strong character-based comedies," she says. Single-cam, she reminds us, requires a lot of work in post-production and in editing, while multi-cam cuts its teeth on the stage in front of the audience.
9:27 a.m. What are the plans for "The Late Late Show" and what is the timetable? And what is the timetable for the Letterman/Colbert change-over. They're going to have meetings starting in August. "He's still very busy," Tassler says of Stephen Colbert. They've had very limited conversations and he will be doing an interview format. They've had conversations about a band or lack thereof. Regarding the 12:30 slot, they're looking at the entire landscape and they're looking at different formats. She says it would be a "knee-jerk" reaction to go with a traditional format, but she's viewing it as an opportunity to look at hosts from different worlds, maybe comedy or maybe political. So it might not be a talk show at all? "It might not, but it also might be."
9:30 a.m. Is CBS OK with Vince Gilligan putting "Better Call Saul" first? "I don't want to diminish David Shore's role. He's a huge part of the show," Tassler says of the "Battle Creek" showrunner. "In whatever way shape or form he wants to be involved, we're 100 percent happy with that," Tassler says of Gilligan.
9:31 a.m. "Two and a Half Men" is the only show heading toward a definite end this season.
9:31 a.m. Is broadcast trying to take familiar shows and distinguish them on execution, rather than experimenting with format? "I think we always strive for excellence across the board," she says. "At no point do we say, 'Let's make this one less excellent.'" She says that the network's conversations often involve longevity. Can something last 15 years like "CSI" or dominate globally like "NCIS"? That's the Holy Grail. "Can it go the distance." She emphasizes that they're broadcasters. "Are we entertaining the greatest number of people and are we making the most money doing that?" Tassler says. She references "The Good Wife" as a show that can be held up against anything on TV. "We have to look at a show in a much more holistic way than we have in the past," she says, referencing its syndication deal and whatnot.
9:34 a.m. Is CBS worried about falling to third in the 18-49 demo? Is the pressure on? "I think we're in a transitional phase. We really are," Tassler says. "It can only be a part of the story," she says of the key demo. "It's a much bigger playing field. There are many more metrics," she says, adding that 18-49 is just a part of the conversation.
That's all, folks!