The CBS chief is taking Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen at his word after he said this week that there’s a way for broadcasters to benefit from his Hopper DVR, which automatically zaps ads on recorded shows. “We’re very flexible. We’re willing to negotiate,” Les Moonves told investors today at the Guggenheim Securities TMT Symposium. Calling Ergen “a very smart man” he says “if there’s a way to do this that benefits everybody, we’re very open to it.” But the bottom line has to be that “we need to get paid for our content…. We spend $4M an episode for NCIS. I have to pay for it.” Broadcasters have sued Dish alleging that the Hopper infringes on their copyrights; Dish counters that it simply automates the ad skipping that DVR viewers already do. The fate of the device is an issue in Dish’s current program carriage negotiations with Disney. Ergen says the Hopper “has built-in technology that can target commercials to customers in a better [way]” and “give the broadcaster more revenue” — although he added that “it’s not a proven concept yet.”
Moonves seemed less flexible, though, when it comes to Aereo. The service — which streams over-the-air programming without payment to local stations — is “a contraption that steals our signal,” he says. If the courts say the service is legal, then CBS would take actions that “would end Aereo’s ability to do business” presumably by taking CBS programming off the airwaves and offering it exclusively on pay TV. The Barry Diller-backed service says that it leases antennas and other technologies that consumers can already use to watch TV for free.