“Who would have thought that this circus would come to town?” Les Moonves told investors today at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference. “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS. The money is rolling in” to the company’s local TV and radio stations.
Most of the ads so far are not about issues, he adds. “They’re like the debates: ‘He did this or did that.’…It’s a terrible thing to say, but bring it on, Donald.” Moonves says he’s not taking sides, but “for us, Donald’s place in this election is a good thing.”
The additional demand for commercials is well timed as CBS and other networks approach the upfront sales market.
The scatter market was “higher than ever” in Q4, and the current quarter “is even better than that.” As a result “we’re looking at a much much stronger upfront than a year ago.” Last year “we took in a little less volume than we would have liked.”
But in 2016 “advertisers will not make the same mistake and buy in October what they could have bought in June for 20% less…Bring it on.”
Digital companies including Google and Yahoo are competing to win ad dollars away from TV, “but the thought that network advertising is going down isn’t true.” Some 20 million people watch CBS shows including The Big Bang Theory and NCIS each week “and you can’t replace that” online.
Moonves says that while CBS “selfishly” wanted to keep the Thursday Night Football deal to itself (and the NFL Network), he’s not concerned by the NFL’s decision to add NBC to the mix. CBS will still have five games and the deal is “profitable.”
The CEO adds that he thinks “we will get a deal” enabling his company to stream next season’s NFL games to those paying $5.99 a month for CBS All Access — although “we’re doing fine without it.”
Moonves also talked up Showtime and it’s stand-alone streaming service that competes with HBO Go and Netflix. Showtime’s web offering is performing “above expectations, which everybody would say whether it’s true or not — but it is true.”
The company has worked out most of the technological kinks. And he likes the original programs including Homeland, Ray Donovan, The Affair, and its recently launched Billions.
“Billions was the highest rated new show in the history of Showtime,”” Moonves says. “It’s a great soap opera. It’s Dallas — two families vying for control of New York City… I’d put our content against any premium cable channel. Show for show I think we’re better than anybody.” He says that Showtime now “is a much more viable channel than it was five years ago.”