Les Moonves is out to get Aereo by any means necessary, but he “doesn’t lose sleep over it,” the CBS Corp president and CEO told the Milken Institute’s Global Conference today. “Barry Diller has done what he likes to do, disrupt things,” Moonves added. However, the CBS chief did say that if the situation couldn’t be resolved in the courts, he is more than willing to take CBS to cable. “We can do it in a few days. If we go to cable, if we are forced to, then about 10% of America will not get our signal and I don’t think they will like that,” Moonves said Tuesday. The CBS chief said that with around 2,000 subscribers in NYC, the “illegal” Aereo won’t hurt the network but that he still intends to shut them down. “We will go after them in the courts and if that doesn’t work there are other remedies. There are financial remedies; there are congressional remedies.” On Monday at the conference, IAC CEO Diller said that CBS and the other broadcasters suing Aereo want Congress to save them if their copyright infringement suits fail. Fox and Univision have also threatened to move to cable if Aereo prevails.
Moonves was joined on the panel by by Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, Clear Channel CEO Robert Pittman and Valhalla Entertainment CEO and Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd. On the subject of new platforms, Moonves said that he thought the obviously-for-sale Hulu would eventually end up as a pay service like the current Hulu Plus. CBS does not participate in free Hulu. “I didn’t think it was a good idea to be in business with my competitors. My content is my family jewels. I don’t want to share that,” he said of the decision to stay off Hulu. Lynton told the well-heeled crowd that he was not interested in Sony buying Hulu.
Talking about the power of social media to influence box office, the Sony boss did venture into how much heft marketing has in modern Hollywood. “When it is good, it spreads fast. When it is bad, it spreads fast,” he said of digital word-of-mouth for movies, especially on opening weekends. “There is only a percentage of what we do that is very good, the rest is marketing,” he said to laughter from his fellow panelists.
Shifting gears to the movie business, Lynton predicted that “it’s going to be a good summer in terms of box office. It’s a scary summer when I see the giant movies that are coming, but they are big brands and movies that people want to see,” he added. However, the Sony Entertainment CEO also noted that blockbusters aren’t the only movies Hollywood should or can make. “The mistake that people make about the mid-range movie and that it is the DMZ — you don’t want to trip into who it is for. If you make a $50 million movie that is for older men, like The Expendables, you clean up,” he argued.