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Q&A With Leslie Moonves

6/06/2004 08:00:00 PM Eastern


New Co-COO of Viacom spoke with

B&C

's Paige Albiniak from the CBS Television Network Affiliates meeting in Las Vegas.


What changes can we expect in your new job?

The chance to channel more shows to CBS and UPN, as well as the other networks, is a good opportunity. Also, you'll see more synergies between Paramount Television and CBS, but not to the exclusion of the other networks. Paramount supplies programs to all six, and I want that to continue. You also have two of the biggest syndication companies in the world: King World and Paramount. That stays intact, but there may be some backroom things where we can cut costs. And I'm looking to get my hands dirty in radio and outdoor.

Why wasn't that happening before?

Even though we are all part of the same corporation, it's harder to do under different management structures.

Was that ever the plan for your life, to have this big corporate role?

I loved what I did as head of CBS, which is another reason I'm not giving this up. I may take a step back in terms of day-to-day minutia. I'm still going to be very active with CBS, so I'm not naming a replacement.

How can you do that?

Each one of my division heads runs a great ship. They know when to inform me, when to make decisions on their own. I'll still be active, but I won't be in every casting session for pilots like I used to.

Would we see CBS Entertainment President Nancy Tellem take a stronger role? More out front?

Nancy already has a strong role.

Internally but not externally. She's not the public face of CBS.

That will evolve. I have no problem with that. I have Nancy, Andrew [Heyworth], and Shawn [McManus] as my three content providers. They are all very strong at their jobs. I have great confidence in them. To tell you the truth, CBS is so strong, I would have had less to do there in the future.

What about radio? Do you keep it?

Absolutely. Like any other businesses, you look at it. If there are some stations where it's a smart idea to sell, you sell. But we believe in the radio business. It's starting to come back. I have to get up to speed on the issues. Radio still produces a lot of revenue for the company. I'm taking over that part from Mel, who was one of the great radio men of all time.

How do you keep Howard Stern in the fold?

Howard Stern is terrific. He does a great job. I think his show is terrific. I am a listener of that show. I hope he stays with us for a long, long time. I know he had a very special relationship with Mel. I hope to develop a better relationship with him.

Given the FCC's obsession with indecency, are you worried you'll have to defend him?

It's important that we respect the First Amendment. We respect the right of broadcasters to have that freedom. I will support Howard in that just as Mel has.

Do you feel you'll be going to work every day and fighting for your next job?

Tom Freston is someone I consider a friend—a legitimate friend, not a Hollywood friend. We have been on vacations together to Havana, to Rio, to the Amazon. I admire him immensely. What he has done with MTV is spectacular. He took this little thing that was just a crazy idea and built it into a multibillion-dollar business. I don't think either one of us is looking at this as a gunfight at the OK Corral or a stepping stone to Sumner's job. Our goal is to make Viacom great.

Is there anything you and Tom might do together that you haven't done before?

There are certain things we share in terms of the vision of the company. We both come from the creative side, and great creative makes great businesses.

Is he your best choice as a corporate partner?

No question. Not only within the company, maybe within the entire industry.

Do you think that you get unfairly categorized as a micromanager?

I don't think my micromanaging is to the detriment of the product. I'm a workaholic.

There are certain things I do micromanage, but the process has worked. What bugged me was when The Wall Street Journal
put in a line about how I wake up people in the middle of the night to berate them. A) I don't berate people or rarely. B) I haven't woken up a person in the middle of the night for anything since I've been at Warner Bros. or CBS.

What keeps you so driven?

I like to win. I'm very competitive. I don't like picking up the newspaper and seeing we got beat in a time period. That bothers me. I like the feeling that comes from putting things together.

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