The former head of CBS Sports, CBS Television Network and a major figure in the rise to prominence of Turner Broadcasting also was CEO of Comsat Video Enterprises.
Robert J. Wussler, a former president of CBS Television Network and senior executive of Turner Broadcasting System during its most innovative period, died on Saturday, June 5, at his home in Westport, Conn., after a long illness. He was 73.
Wussler began his career at CBS as a mailroom clerk in 1957, and rose to become president of the CBS Television Network and president of CBS Sports.
During his tenure at CBS, he produced thousands of hours of network programming, gaining a reputation for innovation in covering such seminal events as the assassinations and funerals of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King; Richard Nixon’s historic trip to China; Presidential campaigns, conventions and elections; and the U.S. space program, including man’s landing on the Moon and the flight of Apollo 11.
Wussler went to Chicago in 1972 to run CBS’s WBBM, but returned two years later to the network and CBS Sports, where he created The NFL Today and redefined programming partnerships with the NBA and professional golf.
In 1976, he was named president of CBS Television Network, the youngest person ever to lead a major network.
In 1978, Wussler formed his own production company, Pyramid Enterprises, which created syndicated programming for the international marketplace, specializing in Japan, France and the former Soviet Union.
In 1980, cable pioneer Ted Turner recruited Wussler to help lead his assault on the television establishment. As senior executive vice president, he managed all TBS staff functions, spearheaded numerous programming initiatives and played a prominent role in the success of CNN, Headline News, superstation WTBS, TNT, the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Hawks, the Goodwill Games and TBS Sports.
From 1989 to 1992, Wussler served as president and CEO of Comsat Video Enterprises, which became a leader is in providing satellite-delivered entertainment to the lodging industry. During his tenure, the company acquired the Denver Nuggets of the National Basketball Association.
In 1992, he formed The Wussler Group, where he spent the past two decades consulting and managing a broad range of domestic and international business arrangements, and creating programming for syndication, network, cable and Internet platforms.
Wussler won seven national Emmy Awards, including the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Trustees Award; four Awards for Cable Excellence and the National Cable Television Association President’s Award.
Born on Sept. 8, 1936, in Newark, N.J., Wussler was a graduate of Seton Hall University. He is survived by his children: Jeanne, Christopher, Stefanie, Sally, Rob and Rosemary; and his grandchildren: Emmett, Maeve, Hope, Whittaker, Griffin and Taite.