CBS tried hard to keep Cote de Pablo on its most-watched series NCIS, Leslie Moonves said during the network’s TCA executive session today. “We offered Cote de Pablo a lot of money — and then we offered even more money,” he explained. “We didn’t want to lose her.” In a surprise announcement earlier this month, the network and the actress said she would appear only in enough episodes of the upcoming 11th season to fill out her Ziva David character’s storyline and then leave the show. The announcement she was leaving, after eight years on the hit drama, came as a surprise earlier this month. This morning, Moonves said the decision came as the network was in discussions with the rest of the cast, “and the producers were aware of what was going on. NCIS is the highest-rated show on TV. We did everything possible to keep her — she ultimately decided she didn’t want to do the show”.

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De Pablo had been the only other cast member without a deal (it expired at the end of the most current season) after star Mark Harmon re-upped in February, an agreement that allowed CBS to renew network TV’s most-watched drama soon after. Season 11 is set to premiere September 24. Most of the cast’s contracts are on a different schedule, with only Harmon and de Pablo up the same year. “I’ve had 8 great years with NCIS and Ziva David,” de Pablo said when news of her departure broke. This past season NCIS topped even NBC’s Sunday Night Football as TV’s most-watched series, averaging around 22 million viewers — up about 7% from previous season. It also ranked No. 1 in the 25-54 demo. NCIS is also licensed in more than 200 markets and ranks as cable’s No. 1 off-network drama in domestic syndication, boosting ratings for USA Network.