The former chief business officer of CBS was 65 years old – deadline

Deborah Barak, one of the most prominent, influential and beloved presenters in the television business of the past three decades, died today, January 21, after a long battle with cancer. She was 65 years old.

Barak passed away just two years after leaving CBS in late 2020. During her 35 years with the company, rising to president of business operations, she created contract templates and introduced business models that have since become industry standards. A skilled negotiator highly regarded by her peers, Barak — known to all as Debby — handled the highest profile network and studio negotiations. She mediated a series of megatalents and show deals, while always remaining composed under pressure in the most chaotic situations.

Behind the steely exterior, the modest and shy Barak had a great sense of humor. She has also been an excellent mentor to many industry professionals who now carry on her legacy.

“Debby was a mentor and dear friend to many of us at CBS,” said David Stapf, president of CBS Studios and Barak’s longtime colleague and friend. “She was the person everyone turned to for advice and guidance, both professionally and personally. You always left her office feeling a little smarter and emotionally stronger. There was no one who was more universally loved, respected and respected at CBS and throughout our business.

“Debby was also that rare person who was equal parts terrifying, smart as hell and incredibly empathetic, which made her a unicorn,” Stapf added. “She was my partner, my best friend and someone who made me a better person.”

During her tenure at CBS, Barak helped set up the business framework for the network to establish its own production and oversaw dealmaking for the studio, from the first original series for then-CBS Productions, including documentaries 911 Rescue and drama Touched by an angel, to CBS Studios’ expansive 75-series slate at the time of her departure.

In addition to her key role in bringing programming ownership to CBS’s primetime slot, Barak helped establish the business plan and led the dealmaking to transition CBS’s late-night properties from leased to wholly owned. She negotiated talent and production contracts for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Late Late Show with James Cordenthe first CBS late-night shows to be produced by CBS Studios.

Barak also helped create the business template for CBS’ summer scripted original series model through lower network license fees and in-season SVOD windows. It was used for series such as Under The Dome, Extant, Zoo and BrainDead. In addition, it established license fee structures for CBS All Access original series such as Star Trek: Discovery.

Barak led the renewal of television series licenses, including high-profile renegotiations for The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and The Late Show with David Letterman, as well as long-term renewals for the franchise’s key specials, including the Grammy Awards, the Kennedy Center Honors and the Academy of Country Music Awards. In 2000, she created the original Survived acting contract, which became the template for reality talent contracts. More recently, Barak negotiated CBS’s acquisition of a stake in Kapital Entertainment and a long-term distribution and co-production deal with Imagine Entertainment. She also represented CBS on the CW board and oversaw the deal for Paramount+ predecessor CBS All Access.

“Respected and respected throughout the media spectrum. Wise, tough and fair to everyone. Her business acumen and sophisticated negotiation skills were matched by her humanity and decency,” said producer Nina Tassler, a former longtime CBS programming executive who rose to president of entertainment during her tenure. “Working together for more than 20 years has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Her sophisticated intellect coupled with a deep respect for artists marked Debby as world class; few possessed her myriad unique talents.

“A mentor and friend to many throughout her stellar career, Debby has been fundamental to the network’s success,” Tassler continued. “Above all, her moral compass never faltered, treating everyone with grace and dignity.”

Barak joined CBS in 1985 as broadcast counsel in the network’s West Coast legal department. She rose to SVP, Business Planning and Special Projects, playing a key role in negotiating new media deals and co-production deals; SVP, Business Affairs, CBS Entertainment; EVP, Business Affairs, CBS Network Television Entertainment Group; EVP, Business Operations, CBS Network Television Entertainment Group; and finally, president of business operations, to which she was appointed in 2015.

When Barak announced her imminent departure at the end of January 2020, she wanted to start a new chapter in her career with a focus on non-profits, an area in which she was very involved. She has served on the board of directors of Jewish Family Services, including as chairperson and Adat Ari El School; she has also been active for Unistream and the Israel Policy Forum, among others. Barak was also open to pursuing other opportunities, including serving on boards, and planned to spend time with her grandchildren.

The pandemic disrupted her last year at CBS, and then the illness thwarted many plans for the future.

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