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CBS entertainment president takes leave following mild heart attack

CBS disclosed Wednesday that its head of entertainment, Glenn Geller, will take a medical leave of at least two months to recover after suffering a mild heart attack this month.

Geller, 45, has been CBS’ chief programmer since September 2015. His health scare occurred March 17, in the midst of a one of the busiest times of the year in network television, when programming executives put together their new fall schedules.

Networks evaluate pilot projects and then pick their new shows in early May. The networks then take turns unveiling their prime-time lineups to advertisers in New York during a week of presentations known in the industry as “the upfront.”

CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves and other senior network executives are expected to become more involved in the programming decisions. On Wednesday, Moonves asked his team in Studio City to pitch in while Geller is recovering.

“Fortunately, Glenn’s medical prognosis is good and he is recovering nicely,” Moonves said in an email to his staff. “We are fully supportive of Glenn focusing on restoring himself to 100%. At the same time, it’s clear that we must now adjust ourselves to a new situation as we finish our pilots and head into the upfront.”

Last week, CBS announced that the network had given early renewals to more than a dozen shows. CBS is the most-watched TV network in America and executives have been working to improve the prime-time ratings among the key demographic of viewers ages 18 to 49. The final push could improve the network’s competitive standing as it seeks higher rates from advertisers for its commercial time.

“You all know what to do, and will now need to step up with the same energy, dedication and passion that you bring to your jobs every day — and just a little bit more, given the situation,” Moonves wrote. “As always, I am here to help the team in any way achieve what we all want from this pilot season: great programming and a spectacular new schedule.”

Moonves’ memo was distributed late Wednesday afternoon, about 20 minutes after Geller sent his own note to employees to explain the situation.

“The doctors have given me an excellent report card and say I’m on track for a full recovery,” Geller said. “The bad news is that pilot season and the upfront isn’t the best environment to achieve that recovery. After consulting with my doctors, my husband, and my family, I plan to take off a few more weeks and return at the end of May.”

meg.james@latimes.com

@MegJamesLAT

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