The companies bidding to buy Hulu may not want to talk to CBS chief Les Moonves. “What are they getting and how long are they getting it?” he mused in an interview Thursday with UBS investment banking chief Aryeh Bourkoff at The Paley Center for Media. “Are they buying two years of programs for $2B? I don’t know. I shouldn’t say more — I’ll get in trouble.” CBS is the only major network that isn’t part of the Hulu joint venture. And Moonves says he’s glad he made that decision. “We want to control our content.” Online broadcasts cannibalize TV viewing and syndication and that’s something “we’re not going to do. Even a little bit. … We protect the family jewels.” But his company’s programming on premium channel Showtime is different. CBS is gearing up to launch Showtime Anywhere — a digital service for Showtime’s cable subscribers. “We are half the way getting there,” he said. Like Time Warner’s HBO Go, Showtime Anywhere would enable customers to watch shows from the premium channel on demand via broadband including on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. Moonves adds that, also like HBO, he won’t charge extra for Showtime Anywhere.
When it comes to the ad market, the CBS chief showed remarkable self-awareness for a media exec saying, “I know I sound a little Pollyannaish.” But he was consistent with the see-no-evil projection he made yesterday during an investor conference. “The world wants us to tell them that the sky is falling. It’s not.” He added that “the signs are nothing like they were in 2007 and 2008. The only place we’ve seen real softening is with Japanese auto makers. And that’s coming back. … Toyota’s coming back bigger in November and December.”
As for CBS’ decision not to go after Olympics broadcast rights, Moonves says the franchise “belonged to NBC. We didn’t want to go on a wild goose chase where we had little chance of getting it unless we wildly overpaid.” Then he took at jab at his struggling competitor: “They needed it more than we did.”