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New CBS President on Fall Lineup, Competition, and Tassler’s Legacy

“Transition is hard for everyone,” acknowledges newly anointed CBS president Glenn Geller, in an interview with Variety the day it was announced that longtime CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler was departing. 

But, he says, it was Tassler’s decision to leave.

“My excitement is hampered only by my bittersweet feelings that Nina is going to be leaving at the end of the year,” says Geller. “We’ve worked together for such a long time. But I’m really excited by the opportunity that Leslie (Moonves) has given me.”

Here, he tells Variety about what’s next on his agenda, his thoughts on the competition, and the biggest challenges he sees for the network.

How long was this transition in the works?

They came to me a couple of months ago and told me that Nina was going to be leaving and went through the reasons why. And then they turned to me, and were looking at me with this smile. And I was like, “What the hell is going on?” And Les said, “You’re the next president of CBS.” It was a great moment.

What is Nina Tassler’s legacy?

I sincerely mean it when I say I can’t imagine CBS without her. She’s synonymous with the letters. I started in 2001 and she was already a legend. She’s a dynamic executive, a dynamic producer. She and the dramas that have been put on the network have literally changed not just the face of the network, but the face of television. She’s brought back the cachet and prestige of a really classy procedural. When you look at the “CSI” franchise, which I think we now just take for granted for being the world phenomenon it was and is, that was just a pitch and it changed the face of this network.

What is first on your agenda?

I would like lunch! (Laughs.) I want to find the next drama hit. I want to find the comedy hit. I want to find the next reality hit. We have great shows on our air. But we need another “Big Bang Theory” or “NCIS” or “The Good Wife.” We need the next “Survivor.” I’m personally really invested in reality. I’ve watched “Survivor” since day one before I ever started at CBS. I’ve never missed a season of “Big Brother.” I think it would be great to find a new reality hit for us.

What do you think of the fall lineup?

I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about the five shows we’re premiering than any other year I’ve worked here. Each one of them have such a specific hook, opportunity to grow our audience, and speaks to the heart of who we are as a broadcaster. They have such broad appeal. They’re showrun by great auspices. We’re in fantastic shape, and we should have an amazing fall.

What do you think of the competition?

Tuesday night is going to be challenging. There’s a lot of good programming that everyone is putting out. Thursday night, we were hurt a little bit last year, so I want to make sure we’re going to be as supported as possible, and we have those plans in place. But overall, I think we’re in the best position. We continue to have the most stable schedule. And that will help us in the long run. Viewers are going to want to sample new shows, and our shows might get dinged a little bit because we’re not always the newcomer, but they’ll come back to us.

What’s one big challenge you see for CBS?

It’s the perception that TV is dying. Broadcast TV is healthy. How we find those viewers and what platform they’re watching them on is important to understand. They may not all be watching live overnight, but the metrics — L3, L7, on-demand — all of that is important, all of that is monetized. And as long as we get paid for it and those viewers count, we’re going to be in great shape.

What’s your favorite show?

I try and sample as much as I can, and then there are things that really speak to me. A lot of it is not on our air, a lot of it is on our air. But “The Good Wife” is my favorite show.

And what’s your take on Stephen Colbert’s debut?

I love the show. He is an amazingly talented host. I’m blown away by his comedic timing. Every episode has just gotten stronger. I think we have a really great show on his hands.

Moonves said one of your strengths was your relationship with showrunners.

I have such a great respect for the writers who create our shows. They are so passionate about every moment, every show, every script. I’ve learned an incredible amount of how to work with talent and be respect but also how to get your point of view across. And I think I’ve been successful in that. I have great relationship with our producers. I think the world of them. And hopefully they think the world of me.

What do you have to learn?

Nina is such a passionate creative force. She’s a talent magnet. She knows everyone. It’s really filling enormous shoes. She will go down as a TV executive legend. I want to fill those shoes as best as I can. But I also have to be myself. We have different strengths. I’ll come to the job in a little different way. We’ll see how it goes. If I could literally bottle ten percent of her core energy, I would shower in it every day.

Are you looking forward to your first executive session at press tour?

Does anyone look forward to it? (Laughs.) I can’t wait. When Nina told me about everything that was happening, I was flooded with a million emotions. But then you also think about the realities, like press tour and upfronts. I looked at her and said with a gasp, “Carnegie Hall!” And she said, “Oh, Glenn, anyone can read from a TelePrompter!” And that’s why I love Nina.

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