December 1, 1953 |
Danville, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of California Berkeley
University of California Hastings College of the Law
|Spouse(s)||Arn Tellem (m. 1979)|
Tellem was born in Danville, California, the daughter of an anesthesiologist mother and surgeon father. Tellem got hooked on TV as a child through fan magazines that the networks used to mail out during the summer to promote new shows. As an undergraduate at the University of California Berkeley, she interned one summer for Congressman Ron Dellums (D-Calif.) on Capitol Hill and met her future husband, Arn Tellem. After earning a JD from the University of California Hastings College of the Law, she practiced law for four years in Los Angeles. Among her first jobs was chasing down people who claimed to be heirs to Howard Hughes's estate. Tellem then jumped to entertainment, working initially as the legal expert on famed lawyer F. Lee Bailey's short-lived 1982 show Lie Detector. Eventually she would end up working for Merv Griffin on his Wheel of Fortune show before moving to Lorimar Television, where she was in the legal affairs department.
Warner Bros. and CBS
When Lorimar merged with Warner Bros. television, Leslie Moonves became head of WB. In 1987, he promoted Tellem to Executive Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs. When Moonves became head of CBS Entertainment in 1995, he appointed Tellem the network's Executive Vice President of Business Affairs, and, later, head of CBS Productions, the unit responsible for producing original series for the network.
In 1998, Moonves became the president of CBS, and named Tellem his successor. That year Tellem ascended to the presidency of CBS Entertainment, where she oversaw programming, development, production, business affairs and network operations. She was responsible for deciding which shows appeared on CBS, supervised the prime-time, daytime, late-night and Saturday morning lineup on both CBS and The CW Television Network - the merged network of The WB and UPN - including shows like CSI, Survivor, Everybody Loves Raymond and The King of Queens, and helped create the landmark shows Friends and ER. In 2010, she stepped down as president, and took on a new role as a senior advisor to Moonves.
Tellem was the second woman in television history, after ABC's Jamie Tarses, to hold the top entertainment post at a major broadcast network. In 2003, she was named the third most powerful woman in entertainment by the Hollywood Reporter. From 2006 through 2008, Forbes Magazine ranked Tellem 75th, 49th and 32nd, respectively, on its annual list of the 100 Most Powerful Women. She placed third on Entertainment Weekly's 2008 list of the 25 smartest people in TV for restoring CBS’s entire prime-time line-up quickly after the 100-day writers’ strike.
In June, 2012, reports surfaced that Microsoft was looking to hire Tellem to head the software giant’s entertainment division, which included Zune and the company’s Xbox and Xbox Live products. In September, 2012, Tellem joined the company as entertainment and digital media president, and set about putting together a team to develop series that would be available exclusively through the Xbox platform. 
Awards and honors
In 2006, Tellem was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame, in recognition of her contributions to the electronic arts. Two years later she received a National Association of Television Program Executives' Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award, which recognizes television professionals who exhibit extraordinary passion, leadership, independence and vision in the process of creating TV programming.
- Nancy Tellem Discussing Stepping Down At CBS; Will Les Cope?, Deadline.com, October 6, 2009
- "The Arn Of The Deal", Sports Illustrated, May 27, 2002
- "The Prime (Time) Of Nancy Tellem", Businessweek, May 29, 2006
- CBS Fills President's Post At Entertainment Division, New York Times, August 18, 1998
- Nancy Tellem changing jobs at CBS, Los Angeles Times, December 18, 2009
- "Nancy Tellem, Television Executive", She Made It, Paley Center for Media (accessed April 23, 2012)
- Nancy Tellem, No. 75, President CBS Paramount Television Entertainment Group
- Nancy Tellem, No. 49, President CBS Paramount Television Entertainment, CBS Corp.
- Nancy Tellem, No. 32, President CBS Paramount Television Entertainment Group
- Entertainment Weekly dubs Seth MacFarlane the smartest guy in TV, Boston Herald, December 4, 2008
- "Why Microsoft is going after CBS' Nancy Tellem", Forbes, June 26, 2012
- "Microsoft Brings In Former CBS Exec Nancy Tellem To Launch New Xbox Studio", LTG, September 19, 2012
- "Television Hall of Fame", C-SPAN, Oct. 23, 2006
- Legacy Award Honorees for 2008, NATPE, 2008
- "Prime Time for Hitler: CBS goes ahead with its biopic plans, but skeptics warn it had better step carefully.", Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, August 1, 2002.
- "A miniseries on the young Hitler", Jewish Telegraphic Agency, November 30, 1999
- "Nancy Tellem", Encyclopedia of World Biography