CBS chief Les Moonves joined the chorus of media execs telling analysts today that they aren’t feeling any pain from the anemic economy. “We don’t see a slowdown,” he told the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference. Ad pricing in the TV scatter market is strong, he says. Also, “people who bought (ads) in the upfront are increasing their orders.” Even radio and billboards are holding up. Indeed, Moonves expects the television network to be “very much in demand in the first quarter. Our schedule is very strong. The other guys have a lot of new shows. I know we’re the boring network, but we’re the stable network and we just win.” Stations also will benefit from what he says will be a record level of spending for the 2012 elections. “It may not be good for the country, but it’s going to b good for CBS.”
Moonves expects the digital business to “grow considerably over the next five years.” Still, he says his decision not to join the other major networks backing Hulu is “one of the smartest things we’ve done.” Partnering with competitors is a “bad idea.” What’s more, “they get 70 cents on the dollar (for ads on Hulu). I get 100%” by running shows on CBS’ site. Moonves also likes the flexibility he has to sell CBS-controlled shows to outsiders including Netflix. “Content is forever,” he says. “We’ve made $20M a year in revenue from I Love Lucy, a show that was last produced in 1957. Fifty years from now some other guy sitting in this chair will be selling CSI.” Moonves says he’s glad that he took his time to work out terms with Netflix — and that the deal is not exclusive. Dish Network “clearly is going to be a player” in online streaming, he says. “They didn’t buy Blockbuster to have stores on the corner.” Also, “Amazon clearly is coming in in a big way.”
In other areas, Moonves says he plans to announce a major agreement with an unnamed owner of CBS affiliates to share the retransmission consent revenues that the company’s stations collect from cable and satellite companies. … The CBS chief says he expects to see the price CBS pays for NFL games rise in three years when the current contract expires — but hopes it won’t be as big as the 60%-plus increase ESPN accepted in its new deal. … Moonves says “we’re going to go slow” in developing CBS Films, which will remain “a minor part of our company.” … And publishing unit Simon & Schuster is more profitable than it was a year ago largely because of increasing sales of digital books. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos “has single-handedly transformed the publishing business,” Moonves says.