In a period of media mega mergers, lots of people believe Sumner Redstone could increase his clout by consolidating — actually re-uniting — his two giants: CBS and Viacom. But CBS chief Les Moonves says he isn’t one of them. “There’s been a ton of noise out there,” he told analysts today following the release of his company’s Q4 earnings. But while his board will “do what’s good for the shareholders….We’re feeling pretty strong about ourselves and don’t need any partners.”
For one thing, he remains bullish about broadcast TV. Unlike more niche-oriented cable networks, “we are not competing directly with digital” services because “network television can’t be replaced.” How confident is he? Next year, when CBS broadcasts the Super Bowl, “we’re going to get north of $5 million” for a 30-second ad — up from NBC’s estimated $4.5 million average this year.
But execs spent much of the call talking up expansion and growth opportunities.
Moonves says that last month’s agreement with Bell Media to offer a Showtime service in Canada is “potentially a very revolutionary deal.” Until recently “the thought of an international Showtime channel was impossible because the shows were owned by other companies.” Now that most of the content comes from CBS, Moonves says the way is open to license the channel brand and provide programming elsewhere. Meanwhile, CBS is considering the possibility of launching a Showtime streaming service in the U.S., similar to one that Time Warner is preparing for HBO. But the CEO says that “we’ll share as many details with you as HBO did, which is not many at all.”
He probably will will have more to say soon, though, about CBS All Access, the broadcast network’s $5.99 a month streaming service. Its live TV offering currently is just live in markets with CBS-owned stations. But Moonves says that CBS is “fairly far down the road” to adding most of the other stations that carry its programming. “We received a very good reaction from our affiliates and expect to announce it in the not-to-distant future.”
There’s also a chance CBS will offer shows to other online distributors, including Dish Network which owns Sling TV. The broadcaster’s recent carriage agreement with Dish provides a “path to negotiate.”
As for programming, Moonves calls CBS’ schedule “very solid” with “very few holes.” As a result, he expects to order three or four fewer pilots than he did last year — possibly “eight comedies and eight or nine dramas.” Meanwhile programming costs are under control with the end of long-running shows including The Mentalist and Two And A Half Men. “That’s a pretty high ticket item,” he says. “By definition maybe the most expensive half hour on our schedule is coming off….Production cost wise we’re in good shape.”
Moonves declined to discuss the problems at NBC News with the recent suspension of anchor Brian Williams.