Moonves: Give Us Our Retrans Cut
CBS chief says NBC may do better than expected with Olympics
By Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/1/2010 3:28:49 PM
"The game has now changed," Moonves said both of cable, satellite and telco operators paying for retransmission rights, and the network's own affiliates sharing their own retrans spoils.
Moonves said it was grossly unfair that a cable network such as USA would get 50 cents per subscriber, while CBS-home of The Mentalist and the NCIS franchise-would be unpaid. "Network programming is at the top," he said. "If we're spending millions of dollars on NFL football or CSI, we should get paid as much as a cable network showing repeats."
With the Winter Olympics concluding yesterday, Moonves said NBC did a "spectacular job" covering the 17-day event. He doubted NBC would lose the $250 million parent GE forecasted before the Games. "I'm sure with these ratings, it wasn't as bad a loss as they announced they were going to do," he said.
Moonves said he sees NBC as a favorite to claim the TV rights once they're made available for the 2014 Winter Games in Russia. "It's part of their heritage...I imagine as the incumbent, there's a good chance they'll stay there," he says.
The CBS chief was more bullish on other sports properties, such as NFL football. He said marquee sports offer both promotional heft for the network and leverage in retrans negotiations. "When you are sitting across from the table from an MSO and you said, by the way, your local team will not be on the air for your viewers this Sunday, it's a lot of power for us," he said.
Regarding the upcoming college basketball tourney, Moonves said the rights are "expensive" and that the network will consider its options regarding extending the agreement. "It's an ongoing conversation," he said.
Moonves also shed some light on CBS' upfront strategy, saying scatter is up "north of 30%" in the first quarter, and that the network would have no problem holding more inventory back again this year should upfront demand come up underwhelming.
"We're happy to hold back and play the scatter game again," he said, though he said he's anticipating a very strong upfront season.
Among other businesses under his watch, Moonves said local TV was pacing up in some markets in the high teens and low twenties, and radio is finally showing positive numbers. He said TV and radio stations would continue to work together in their given markets, whether it's on content or sales. "We're doing more and more cross-selling across multiple platforms," said Moonves. "One of the keys to our success is our ability to do that."
When a question about what the FCC will do with the broadcast spectrum came up, Moonves went out of his way to praise chairman Julius Genachowski, calling the FCC boss "brilliant." The thought of station owners giving up that spectrum, however, "scares us a bit," he said.
Overall, Moonves says business is way stronger than a year ago, when the CBS chief quipped that he was ready to jump out of the 35th floor of Black Rock. "Things look a lot more positive in every one of our businesses," he said.
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