Making a World of Difference at CBS

International exec Armando Nuñez, anointed by Moonves for his ‘phenomenal’ numbers and ‘team-builder’ style, plans to push syndication forward with a global view
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Armando Nuñez keeps watch over the vast television empire he now oversees by means of one giant high-definition TV that hangs in his roomy office on the third floor of CBS Television City in Hollywood-the office formerly occupied by CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves. The TV is split into many smaller feeds, which allows Nuñez to monitor the 22 international channels that he and his team have launched over the past few years.

When named president of CBS Global Distribution Group in October, Nuñez added oversight of syndication's biggest distributor, CBS Television Distribution, to his portfolio. While Nuñez doesn't expect much to change at CTD-producer and distributor of many of syndication's biggest hits, including Judge Judy, Dr. Phil and Entertainment Tonight-he brings a global point of view on which CBS expects to capitalize. And with a well-earned reputation as an international power player, he seemed, internally, to be the ideal choice for so wide and vital a role.

"It became self-evident that it would be far more efficient to put international and domestic together under one leader," Moonves says of Nuñez, who came to the post from serving as CBS' international chief. "I asked myself, 'Does he only have experience in international and can that translate?' I decided that it does. A great executive is a great executive."

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Nuñez has television in his blood. His father, Armando Nuñez Sr., worked for 20th Century Fox in Cuba in the 1950s. After the Cuban revolution, Nuñez Sr. relocated the family to New York, where Nuñez grew up. ("Always a New Yorker," Nuñez likes to say, even though he has lived in Los Angeles since 1999.) As a child, he even appeared on NYC's legendary local TV kids show, Wonderama.

Nuñez met his wife, Madeline, on a blind date while she was working at Inside Edition, a show he now oversees. The couple lives in the Hollywood Hills, overlooking CBS TV City; their son, Daniel, will be 12 next month.

As president of CBS Broadcast International since 1999 and president of CBS Studios International since 2004, Nuñez grew CBS' international revenue severalfold by selling local formats of CBS shows such as America's Next Top Model and The Doctors and by taking advantage of every possible window for every show. It's that sort of growth that Moonves is hoping to achieve on the domestic side, which represents a tougher challenge.

Nuñez oversees CBS offices in 13 cities: Amsterdam, Beijing, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Munich, New York, Paris, Rome, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Toronto.

Overall, Nuñez is responsible for more of CBS' revenue than any other division head. In 2011, the last year for which an entire year of reporting is available, CBS brought in $3.25 billion in content licensing and distribution, up 6% from the prior year.

While $3.25 billion is a big number, Nuñez' charter will be to keep CBS' percentages climbing. His track record precedes him: He has grown international revenue from $497 million in 2007 to $1.1 billion in 2011, doing so during the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

"The numbers have been phenomenal, and he's done it with great style," Moonves says. "When you are in syndication, you have to be a good teammate. He's been selling the stuff from syndication, the network, Showtime, and he's been dealing with all of those creative factions and organizations. He's a team-builder, which is probably his best characteristic."

One way Nuñez expects to grow CBS is by selling into the expanding digital marketplace: He oversees that part of the business internationally, while Scott Koondel, senior VP and chief corporate content licensing officer, handles digital sales on the domestic side, reporting to Joseph Ianniello, executive VP and CFO of CBS.

In 2013, Nuñez' domestic focus will be on CTD's two new shows -- The Arsenio Hall Show in late night and The Test in daytime -- both of which launch this fall. He will do that with a well-regarded, committed team in place at CTD, which will divide all development and current programming tasks.

In his first published interview since being named president of CBS Global Distribution, Nuñez tells B&C contributing editor Paige Albiniak how he plans to keep everything going-and growing.

What do subscription-video-on-demand (SVOD) and digital sales mean in the digital marketplace?

Internationally, SVOD is not a new window. There are a number of different companies that have been offering SVOD services for a number of years. But up until the recent expansion of U.S.-based companies such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, there wasn't a great deal of focus on the content or a desire to pay accordingly for that content. Now, you've got Netflix in Canada, Latin America, the U.K. and Scandinavia. Hulu's in Japan. And Amazon already was everywhere, but their video-streaming service only recently launched in a number of different markets around the world.

It's still all about the careful, coordinated monetization and windowing of your content. First and foremost, you need traditional platforms to create brands and platforms for you. There's no use taking a brand-new show that comes off of CBS and trying to put it on a digital platform somewhere without advance promotion and marketing. Just as there are in the U.S., there are significant opportunities in the SVOD world in general. Our challenges with those opportunities are to do these deals in a smart, coordinated fashion so that you aren't cannibalizing, but supporting, your core businesses.

What will happen to The Doctors and Rachael Ray, since they will be moving off of the major CBS-owned stations in top markets this fall to make room for Sony Pictures Television's Queen Latifah?

Rachael Ray and The Doctors are obviously proven, successful commodities. They are going to get shuffled around in some markets, but I think the shows are strong enough to stand on their own and continue as strongly as they have been.

Do you expect Jeff Probst to continue next year?

We continue to think that Jeff Probst is an amazing talent. We're well aware where we are with the numbers on that show, and he and his team are working hard at trying to improve the performance. It's still too early to make a call about year two.

You're a well-established international executive coming into the domestic distribution business, which has its own set of rules. How do you see the domestic and international distribution businesses complementing each other?

Many people don't realize it, but there's always been a global monetization of content. When people think about international distribution of content, they tend to think about primetime network dramas such as NCIS or CSI. They don't realize the extent [to which] our syndicated content gets distributed around the world. This business is all about how content gets monetized. At its simplest, it's about how you make a show for X and generate Y profits. My role here is the big-picture role of all of the different ways we can monetize our content. More and more of what we do as an industry is about the global marketplace.

Do you encourage CBS to produce shows that will sell well in the international market?

One of my closest colleagues here is David Stapf [head of CBS Television Studios], and when he shares things with me during the development season, I always tell him, 'Just make the show successful for the U.S. If it's successful here, it has a higher probability of working outside of the U.S.' There's no sense in having a really high-concept show that we're all excited about that only goes six episodes. There is something about CBS' mantra of being a broadcaster with mass appeal that is very appealing in all markets.

We are in a very advantageous position as a U.S. studio supplying content to the international marketplace. And that's just the first level. When the content becomes successful, you have that whole other layer of monetization through cable and digital sales. And don't forget, a lot of what we do when a show becomes successful in its third, fourth or fifth season is re-licensing our content over and over, and windowing our content. It's rare that we sell our content in one market to just one client. It's usually windowed to different clients in the same market.

What do you think is the unique selling point of The Arsenio Hall Show, which CTD, in partnership with Tribune, is bringing back to late-night TV this fall?

It's something that is unique, that is different, and that has the added advantage of going into the marketplace with strong partners like Tribune right off the bat. While we all know that Arsenio is a very well-known and recognizable talent from our industry perspective, we're not taking anything for granted when it comes to its marketing and promotion. It's not just about the people who already know who Arsenio is. It's also about viewers who know him from Celebrity Apprentice, or who know the name but who don't really know him. At the end of the day, obviously late-night is quite crowded with a number of successful existing players, but the fact that this is a syndicated show versus a network show gives the stations the flexibility they were looking for.

What role do you think the broadcast networks plays in this new digital and on-demand world?

I've had the good fortune of being in this business now for 30 years. People have predicted the demise of the broadcast networks for years now. That's what people said when cable came along, when VCRs came along and when DVRs came along. With every new distribution outlet, you have that initial angst of what this new business is going to do to the traditional business, to the legacy players. But with time, the industry gets its sea legs and figures out how these new players will fit in with the existing players. It's no different than these new digital pipes that are out there. There's certainly a lot of angst about it, but research continues to prove that more people than ever are watching television.

E-mail comments to palbiniak@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter: @PaigeA

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