Moonves Predicts Nine-Figure Retrans Pot

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CBS will, eventually, get "hundreds of millions of dollars" from retransmission-consent deals covering the total 60 million households reached by the CBS and soon-to-be CW stations it owns, President and CEO Les Moonves predicted at the annual Bear Stearns Media Conference Tuesday night.

While most of its bigger deals are down the road--2008 and 2009. Moonves said to look for one new retrans deal within six weeks. He said that the stations would also eventually be getting a cut of the new cash-and-carry regime.

Spurring the CBS move to ask for cash for cable carriage was the split-up of CBS and Viacom. Before, station carriage was tied up with Viacom's powerhouse MTV Networks carriage, and so the compensation was carriage of new channels rather than cash. As a stand-alone, said Moonves, "cable operators are going to have to pay for our signals."

Answering questions about the new CW network--a joint venture of Time Warner and CBS--Moonves said that, while it took a dozen years to figure out that The WB and UPN were two "mediocre channels," though with some successful programming, the combination of the best from each would be a case of "one plus one equals three." He reiterated that the network should make money from day one.

Moonves assured the financial types that all the new competing video delivery technologies would be "additive" rather than cutting into CBS' ad model of delivering a mass audience.

He pointed out that while 29 million people still watch CSI every Thursday night--arguing the core "communal" appeal of network TV had not been lost to fragmentation, he also said that even the most loyal fan base--to CSI, or Housewives, or even American Idol--only watch an average of two weeks out of four.
"They are looking for a place to go the other two weeks," he said, and that will be VOD, or to something they have recorded on their DVR, but "it won't hurt our core audience."

Saying that CBS was a content company, he also pointed to the additional revenues the network--and the stations--would get, from deals with companies like Google for Internet delivery. In fact, he said, in 60% of the country, CBS and the stations split the revenue from the Google deal (CSI is available on Google Video for $1.99 a pop, for example).

"Everything we have seen," he said, suggesting that "that the new rev streams [wireless, internet, VOD] will be additive." 

Moonves also said that the fragmentation of the audience actually helps those who can deliver a mass audience. "If you want to reach one tenth of one hundredth of the audience, go to cable," he said, pointing out that, on one recent night, almost 75% of the audience was tuned to broadcast TV.

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