Already king of the broadcast world, CBS CEO Les Moonves
thinks he could conquer cable as well.
During a session at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media,
Communications & Entertainment Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif.,
Wednesday morning, Moonves was asked what businesses he'd like to add at CBS.
While saying CBS has "no burning desire" to acquire
anything, he added that "looking down the road, you always say, could we manage
some of the cable assets that are out there better than some of the other
people? There's no question about that."
In the case of a general entertainment cable channel, "I
think we could program it pretty darn well. We've got a great library. We
obviously are programming people. We know how to do this. We've been the No. 1
network nine of the last 10 years. We know this business. We know how to make
networks work," he said.
Speaking of cable networks, Moonves pointed to the success
of Showtime. At a time when some industry observers have expected no grow in
pay cable, he said, Showtime's subscribers have risen to 22 million from 13
million in the last five or six years.
In addition, as CBS has signed new carriage deals with
distributors, "Showtime is going to be paid more money," Moonves said.
"Showtime...is much hotter than it ever was because of their programming and
people are paying more for Showtime. People want Showtime. So as other pay services
may be going down, either creatively or in terms of their sub, Showtime is a
great success story in the pay window. And once again, over the past five
years, Showtime has gone from making approximately $200 million to making over
$750 million this year," he said.
Moonves also said that advertising on the upcoming Super
Bowl on CBS is more than 90% sold and that commercials are now being sold for
more than $4 million.
Moonves said it was hard to give a read on the rest of the
ad market until the new season starts. "As soon as we succeed, which we think
we will, and we think we'll do better than our competitors, we feel like the
scatter market will come our way."
The Super Bowl will
be part of an unusual stretch in the first quarter, in which CBS will also
broadcast in primetime the NFL's AFC Championship game and the Grammy Awards.
Moonves called that "the Haley's Comet of network television." He said that
three of those four Sundays, our ratings are going to be extraordinary. So for
those of you who don't think we're going to kick-start '13, well, you're not
Moonves also took a shot at technologies that could
adversely affect revenues. He said Dish Network's ad-skipping Hopper DVR can't
exist. "If they want to eliminate our commercials, we will not be in business
with them," He said. "If they want to continue down that line, then we will just
not be on Dish. We will go elsewhere."
And regarding Aereo, which retransmits broadcast programming
over the Internet without paying the retransmission fees cable and other
distributors pay, Moonves declared "there's no way we put out what we're doing,
there's no way we're spending the money we're spending on sports, on
programming, that we are not going to get paid appropriately in either sub fees
or in advertising fees. That is how we make our money. That is why we can
provide the product we do. If you want to get crummy user-generated product, go
on YouTube. CBS is not YouTube."