CBS Paring Assets, Says Moonves


Now that it is paring assets, expect CBS to dip into the deal market—but the acquisitons won’t be giant ones, says President and CEO Leslie Moonves. Speaking at Morgan Stanley’s annual Media & Communcations conference in Washington, Moonves said that the company plans to put 32-35 radio stations on the block, around 20% of its 179-station portfolio. On Monday, the company announced a deal to sell its theme-parks unit for $1.2 billon.

But Moonves isn’t planning to use the cash for a new shopping spree. “We're going to return money to our shareholders,” he says, primarily by purchasing stock in the open market and raising the value of the remaining shares. “Content” takeovers are secondary. “Don't look at CBS to make a major acquisition,” Moonves says.

Most specifically, Moonves reiterated his lack of interest in the ongoing auction of Spanish-language broadcaster Univision. Federal rules restricting TV-station ownership are one major impediment to CBS, but not the only one. “Too complicated, too expensive—we’re not interested,” Moonves says.

Asked about the prospects of Showtime, which is a subsidiary of the new CBS Corp., Moonves says the network’s approach to original programming will broaden: “Showtime is a little too much of an off-off Broadway play. They’re interested in critics, not so much in audiences.”