Glenn Geller did not have to lobby for the president of CBS Entertainment position. The job was not offered to him either; he was just informed he had it. Here is the story of how that happened as told by Geller. The events in it follow the mid-July lunch between CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves and CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler, where Tassler told Moonves she wanted to leave and the two zeroed in on Geller as her replacement.
“It was a couple of months ago, in late July when Nina said, “We are going to have a meeting with Les today. When we were finished, Les said, “This was part 1, now there is part 2 of the meeting. Nina is stepping down at the end of the year.” They looked at me with this smile on their faces. “You are the next president of CBS Entertainment,” Les said. It was not a question, it was declarative.”
Of course, Geller was not going to turn down the job if it was offered. Because of the secrecy surrounding the executive change, Geller continued to focus full-time on his job as head of current programming for CBS, the CW and CBS Studios, and Tassler only recently started briefing him on what was being bought as pitches for next season. Starting today, he will be immersing himself in development, sitting in on the big pitches and leaning on Tassler when needed. (Tassler is staying on as chairman until the end of 2015 to help with the transition.)
Despite coming from current programming, not development background, Geller says he doesn’t expect the learning curve to be steep because at CBS, the current department jumps on a new series right after the pilot. “We have a saying that Episode 2 is the hardest episode to do,” Geller said, noting that it takes month to develop and produce the pilot and only weeks for the followup episode, which has to be just as good. “I have been part of dozens and dozens of shows, so (development) is “not going to be vastly different; it is in my wheelhouse.”
Since joining CBS in 2001, Geller has worked at both CBS and CBS Studios, most recently overseeing current series for both. CBS has been one of the networks making a push for owning a lot of their series in the past year. That would continue, Geller indicated. “Ownership is very important,” he said, quickly adding, “but I also want the next Big Bang Theory and Supergirl (both from an outside studio, Warner Bros. TV) that walks through the door,” encouraging suppliers to bring the projects they feel belong on CBS.
CBS has been adding younger-skewing series, like Scorpion and Supergirl. Geller is quick to correct me that these are actually shows with broad appeal, a direction he plans to continue to explore.
Geller would not elaborate on the type of series he would want to get on the air in his first development season but noted that “it is no secret that procedurals work well on CBS.” “In the last few years, our procedurals stepped up the relationships and the characters on the shows, and you are going to see a lot of great character relationships in comedies and dramas on CBS.”
Asked about his biggest achievements at CBS so far, Geller mentioned this season.”I’m proud that CBS brought back such a big number of (freshman) shows, it is kind of unprecedented.” That includes dramas Scorpion, NCIS: New Orleans, Madam Secretary and CSI: Cyber and comedy The Odd Couple — all coming from CBS TV Studios — as is Jane The Virgin, renewed by the CW.