‘Jay Leno Show’ good for CBS

Ratings drop for NBC talk show gave CBS more ad rev

NBC’s 10 p.m. Jay Leno debacle has been good for CBS, according to Eye entertainment prexy Nina Tassler.

Speaking to reporters Saturday at CBS’ portion of the TV Critics Assn. press tour, Tassler said the Peacock’s ratings declines in the hour has given the Eye a “bigger piece of the ad revenue pie at 10 p.m.”

The exec also took NBC to task for characterizing their 10 p.m. “Jay Leno Show” strip as a panacea for larger broadcast TV woes.

To turn to that and say this is a reflection on the whole network TV business, I think that is misguided,” Tassler said. “Our business is thriving right now… 10 p.m. is great business for us. We’re enjoying success with new hit shows, as are ABC and Fox. (NBC launched) an experiment that obviously did not work.”

Tassler said she didn’t think “anyone is shocked or surprised” by NBC’s decision to move Leno back to late night.

The exec also added that she believed the creative community was bruised by the Leno experiment.

A lot of people were put out of work,” Tassler said — a notion that NBC has long dismissed — “and a lot of people saw this as having a pretty negative impact on our business.”

Tassler confirmed that CBS had kept its talent off “The Jay Leno Show,” but didn’t want to use the term “boycott.” Exec said the move to stop its stars from showing up on Leno was a competitive measure, given that Leno was up against its dramas in primetime.

As for the renewed 11:35 p.m. competition, Tassler said she believed “Late Show with David Letterman” would fare well vs. the return of Leno. Letterman has been regularly beating “Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” in the slot.

Dave’s show has experienced terrific growth, which has given him a bigger and loyal fan base,” she said. “He’ll do great.”

Tassler also confirmed past reports that David Letterman and Craig Ferguson were close to extending their deals with the net. (Those earlier reports suggested that Letterman would take a pay cut as part of a new deal.) Tassler said the Eye was all but inked on extensions for Letterman and Ferguson that go well into 2012.

Tassler said she’s keeping a close competitive eye on NBC, now that the net plans to repopulate the 10 p.m. hour with dramas — and has announced its intentions to pick up 18 pilots.

In comparison, with fewer scheduling holes to fill, Tassler said CBS will likely order around nine drama and seven or eight comedy pilots. And if previous years are any indication, Tassler said, the Eye will pick up around three new dramas and two new comedies to series.

We’ll be shooting as many pilots as in previous years,” she said. “We can’t be complacent.”

Meanwhile, asked about Charlie Sheen’s recent legal woes, Tassler said it was “business as usual” on the set of “Two and a Half Men,” as well as the net’s commitment to the show and the actor.

Right now we’re being very sensitive to the fact that this is a very personal and very private matter for Charlie,” she said. “There’s no impact on the network right now. The show is proceeding on a regular production schedule.”

Later, “Two and a Half Men” exec producer Chuck Lorre told reporters that the show hasn’t made any changes, and Sheen hasn’t altered his performance, in light of the scandal.

Charlie’s a consummate pro,” Lorre said. “He shows up and he delivers.”

Addressing another Eye star whose personal troubles recently dominated the headlines, Tassler said Letterman handled his recent sex scandal “brilliantly.”

We had an unbelievable confidence in his ability to handle this,” she said. “He handled it with such decency and respect.”

Among other issues, Tassler said the network was still mulling different talk or game show options to replace the retiring “As the World Turns.”

And asked whether she still saw Fox’s “American Idol” as a competitive threat, Tassler said she believed the show was “still a force to be reckoned with.”

It’s still the death star,” she said.

Tassler also confirmed that “Three Rivers” was dead — and gave reporters fodder for the next time the net proclaimed that a show wasn’t canceled but “on hiatus.”

When something’s ‘on hiatus,’ (we all know) it’s code for something else,” she quipped.

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