Why the CBS-Produced Gina Rodriguez POTUS Series ‘Diary of a Female President’ Landed at Disney+ Instead of The CW

“It didn’t feel like we had the perfect platform,” CBS creative chief David Nevins said Thursday

Gina Rodriguez
Christopher Polk/Getty Images

One of the first series that will debut after Disney+ launches on Nov. 12 will come from a rival studio in CBS TV Studios, which is behind the Gina Rodriguez-produced “Diary of a Female President.” But the series could’ve landed with The CW, where Rodriguez called home for five seasons, starring in “Jane the Virgin.”

“We thought about it for The CW,” CBS’ chief creative officer David Nevins said Thursday during the Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s annual media and entertainment conference. “But the lead is a 12-year-old girl. It didn’t feel like we had the perfect platform.”

Written and created by “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” alum Ilana Peña, the 10-episode story is told through the narration of a 12-year-old Cuban-American girl’s (Tess Romero) diary as she navigates the ups and downs of middle school and her journey to becoming the future president of the United States. “We were going to jam it in for the CW, but it was a little too young,” Nevins continued.

Rodriguez will play the adult version of the POTUS and serve as executive producer alongside Emily Gipson of her production company I Can and I Will. “The Carmichael Show’s” Robin Shorr will serve as showrunner.

The series does not have a premiere date, but will debut within the first year of Disney+, which launches on Nov. 12. “CBS is going to end up having one of the very first shows at Disney+,” Nevins continued.

The decision to let “Diary of a Female President” go to a competing media company is part of CBS and Viacom’s strategy — the two companies finally agreed to merge last month — as a “pure play” content provider. “We believe in the power of [our] brands. If we have something that we feel is going to burnish one of those brands, is really perfect, we’re going to try to make it stay at the home place,” he said. “Occasionally someone is going to make us an offer we cant refuse.”

He said that is exactly what happened with Disney. “They made us a great deal.”

The series was sold to Disney+ in January, eight months before CBS and Viacom announced their intentions to re-couple. Nevins spoke briefly about the merger, which is expected to close at the end of the year. He said that the addition of Viacom’s children’s programming from Nickelodeon and Paramount’s film library fills “two obvious holes” at CBS. He pointed to the upcoming animated “Star Trek” series on Nickelodeon as a great example of how the two companies compliment each other. “We’ve got to get [‘Star Trek’ audience] younger.”

ViacomCBS will have an array of five separate, but smaller, streaming services between CBS All Access, Showtime OTT and BET+, the company is not planning to come out with one, big, comprehensive offering such as Disney+ or WarnerMedia’s upcoming HBO Max.

That gives the company, Nevins argues, the opportunity to sell to any and all comers, even if it’s a rival company. “There’s a lot of hungry mouths to feed. We really believe in serving not only inside our own ecosystem, but serving people outside. There’s a lot of demand.”