It was a hectic morning for CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler, who was trying to get to the office early for the announcement of her departure from the network while making sure her teenage daughter had boots and a raincoat on when leaving for school in the big storm that flooded Los Angeles Tuesday morning. That juggling act was a big part of Tassler’s decision to walk away from the high-power network job.
Tassler’s daughter has two more years of high school, and the exec’s mother is 82. “No one is getting any younger,” said Tassler, who also has an older son. “I wanted to be available to my daughter and my mom.”
Still, the timing of Tassler’s departure less than half-way through her contract did get tongues wagging today. But Tassler dismissed any speculation that something precipitated the move, saying that it was just the right moment for her.
Tassler spoke of having doubts when she was negotiating her current contract at the end of 2013. That summer, her best friend had died, resulting in Tassler pulling from the summer press tour to attend the funeral, with CBS CEO Leslie Moonves subbing for her. “It was a hard time in my life,” Tassler said. “I was struggling, and my decision to stay for this length of time was out of loyalty and commitment to Leslie and this amazing company that had been part of my life for so long.”
Tassler’s history with CBS is far longer than her 18-year tenure as an executive at the network. Her father worked at CBS as an audio-video technician from 1955-57. And growing up, Tassler said the TV at their home was always set on CBS, the only network they watched.
Making up her mind and signing a new four-year contract in early 2014 did not put an end to Tassler’s internal dilemma. With The Talk and the entire CBS daytime lineup in good shape, a new late-night block in place and primetime solid, with a superhero new addition in the high risk-high reward Supergirl, which Tassler is particularly proud of, she said she felt she could leave without leaving unfinished business for her successor.
Tassler says her focus at the moment is making the transition to Glenn Geller, who has taken over her responsibilities. After that is done in December, she will turn her attention to projects outside of CBS.
“There are so many ideas I’ve been working on,” Tassler said. She has her compilation of essays by female leaders she’d put together with Cynthia Littleton that is coming out next year (“Something I’m very proud of,” Tassler said). Additionally, with Moonves’ blessing, she had optioned a play and a feature script and had been working on them on the side.
Tassler is not ruling out a career as a producer. Early on, when she was an aspiring theater actress in New York, Tassler took a job at the Roundabout Theatre to support herself. She said she loved the experience working behind the scenes of a theater, seeing the mechanics of launching a production. “Producing is a little bit in my blood,” Tassler said but was quick to add that “Philanthropy also is a very important for me.”
As for her role at CBS, where she will be an advisor for the final two years of her contract, Moonves earlier today said it would be up to Tassler what areas she would like to work in.
Tassler did not provide specifics. “Im here to support, advise and contribute in any shape or form on behalf of the company,” she said.
Tassler called the CSI franchise her proudest achievement at CBS. She was head of the drama department when she got a call about the project that had gotten a pass at ABC. She bought it and helped nurture it into a billion-dollar franchise for the company. “Realizing that was a show which I bought at the beginning of my tenure and this fall watching the two-hour finale, I feel it’s a real milestone, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of this show.”
Looking back at her 18 years at CBS, Tassler said, “I have zero regrets.” She quoted John Quincy Adams’ saying, “we’ve been made to understand, and to embrace the understanding that who we are is who we were.” Said Tassler, “I hope the person I am is the person I always was.”
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