The CBS chief isn’t prepared to stop once he persuades advertisers to pay for viewers who watch commercials as much as seven days after a show airs — a change he expects to see next year from the current live-plus-three-days. “We’re pushing eventually for live plus 30,” Les Moonves told investors this morning at the RBC Capital Markets Technology, Internet, Media and Telecommunications Conference. Viewers increasingly watch shows on DVRs, VOD, and online. As a result, for a series such as CBS’ Hostages “when you count 30 days more, the number [of viewers] almost doubles,” he says. Moonves adds that buyers should be willing to pay. “If you show the advertisers that a person is really watching them, that’s a good thing….Advertisers are paying for the eyeballs that are watching their spots.” But Disney CEO Bob Iger, for one, says it may take longer than Moonves thinks to persuade buyers to even raise the current threshold to seven days. “I’m not sure it’s going to happen very quickly,” Iger said last week. “I don’t think the advertising community is going to move that fast.”
In other comments this morning, Moonves defended CBS’ refusal to grant Time Warner Cable the right to stream network programming on its TV Everywhere platform as part of the hard-fought program carriage agreement they reached in September. It “was left on the table” although “it’s not something we’d be opposed to revisiting.” But ultimately “if you want us to appear on an iPad, we have to get paid a little bit more for that.” Moonves also said that he felt he had to dig in his heels in the negotiations, even though it left his stations and channels dark on TWC systems for 32 days. “This was a watershed moment in terms of our rates…We started at ground zero four or five years ago so it’s catch-up time.” Noting that TWC paid 10 cable channels higher sub fees than it paid CBS, Moonves says “we should be No 2 after ESPN.” With his perceived victory over TWC, he says that he expects to beat his prediction to collect $1B in retransmission consent and reverse compensation fees from affiliates in 2017. “The number by 2017 should be higher than that.”
Moonves reiterated his confidence that these payments won’t be jeopardized by Aereo, or a system like it that taps and then streams broadcasters’ over-the-air signals without paying stations. “If necessary we could take [CBS] off” the airwaves and just offer it on cable or satellite. “It would be very easy for us to do that because 87% of our consumers watch us through those [pay TV] devices.” Broadcasters have taken Aereo to court saying that it infringes on their copyrights. Aereo says that it merely leases consumers the technology they have the right to use to watch local stations for free.