Deborah Barak, one of the most prominent, influential and beloved television executives of the past 30 years, died today (January 21) after a long battle with cancer. She is 65 years old.
Barak passed away in late 2020, just two years after leaving CBS. During her 35 years at the company, during her ascent to President of Business Operations, she created transactional templates and introduced business models that became industry standards. Barack – better known as Debbie – is a skilled negotiator who is highly respected by her peers – leading some of the most high-profile negotiations for networks and studios. She brokered a string of super talent and acting deals, all while remaining calm under pressure in the most chaotic of situations.
Behind his steely exterior, the humble and media-averse Barack has a great sense of humor. She was also an excellent mentor to many industry professionals who now carry on her legacy.
“Debby was a mentor to many at CBS,” said David Stapf, president of CBS Studios and a longtime colleague and friend of Barak’s. “She’s the person everyone turns to for advice and guidance, both professionally and personally. You always leave her office feeling a little wiser and emotionally stronger. On CBS and our Throughout his business, no one is more universally loved, admired and respected.
“Debbie is also that rare being who is both intimidating, astoundingly intelligent, and deeply compassionate, which makes her a unicorn,” Stapf added. “She’s my partner, my best friend, and someone who makes me a better person.”
During his tenure at CBS, Barak helped build the network’s business framework to establish an in-house production department and oversee studio deals, beginning with what was then CBS Productions’ first original series, including a series of documentaries rescue 911 and drama Touched by an angel, At the time of her departure, CBS Studios had 75 series.
In addition to playing a key role in bringing programming ownership to CBS primetime, Barack also helped develop the business blueprint and led the transition of CBS’s late-night properties from lease to full ownership.She negotiated talent and production deals The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and james corden late night showthe first late-night CBS show produced by CBS Studios.
Barak also helped create the business template for CBS’ summer original scripted series model with low network licensing fees and seasonal SVOD windows.It is used for series like this under the dome, extant, zoo and brain death. In addition, she established licensing fee structures for CBS All Access original series such as Star Trek: Discovery.
Barak handled license renewal for the web series, including the high-profile renegotiation The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and The Late Show with David Letterman, as well as long-running renewals of major franchise specials, including the Grammys, Kennedy Center Honors and Academy of Country Music Awards. In 2000, she drafted the original survivor Actor contracts become the template for realistic talent agreements. Most recently, Barak was in talks with Imagine Entertainment regarding CBS’ purchase of Kapital Entertainment’s interest and a long-term distribution and co-production agreement. She also represents CBS on the CW board and oversaw the transaction for Paramount+ predecessor CBS All Access.
“Respected and admired throughout the media arena. Smart, tough, and fair to all. Her business acumen and sophisticated negotiating skills are complemented by her humanity and decency.” Working together for over 20 years has been the most rewarding of my life One of the experiences. Her mature intellect and deep appreciation of the artist make Debbie a world-class figure; few have her myriad of unique talents.
“Throughout her illustrious career, Debbie has been a mentor and friend to many and the foundation of the network’s success,” Tassler continued. “Above all, her moral compass never wavered, treating everyone with grace and dignity.”
Barak joined CBS in 1985 as broadcast counsel for the network’s West Coast legal department. She was promoted to Senior Vice President, Business Planning and Special Projects, where she played a key role in negotiating new media deals and co-production agreements; Senior Vice President, Business Affairs, CBS Entertainment; Executive Vice President, Group Commercial, CBS Network Television Entertainment; CBS Network Television Entertainment Executive Vice President, Group Business Operations; lastly, in 2015, she was appointed President, Business Operations.
When Barak announced her impending departure at the end of January 2020, she hoped to begin a new chapter in her career focusing on nonprofits, an area in which she has been actively involved. She serves on the board of directors of Jewish families, including serving as president of the Adat Ari El School; she is also active in events such as Unistream and the Israel Policy Forum. Barack is also open to pursuing other opportunities, including serving on the board, and plans to spend time with her grandchildren.
The pandemic disrupted her final year at CBS, and then the illness thwarted many of her plans for the future.