“We launched four shows, and all are successful,” he said at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference. “Are there any ERs or CSIs or Survivors in there? No.” Still, “the aftermarket and other platforms are up considerably” — and could be even stronger if digital viewing was folded into ratings. “We need better measurement, and Nielsen is trying to do that.”
The bottom line is that “network television is still strong and still creates quality content.”
Asked about CBS’ status amid a debate over Executive Chairman Sumner Redstone’s health, he says “it hasn’t been a distraction. And nothing is going to change.”
On the advertising side, Moonves says sales are so good that he’s “looking forward to the upfront” market in the spring. “With scatter this strong, you know it’s going to stay that way.” The network sold about 5% fewer spots in this year’s upfront market as part of a bet that pricing will improve.
“Advertisers have to ask themselves, ‘If I had bought this in July. I would have spent 20% less.'”
He’s especially enthusiastic about the prospects for political ads — including now with so many Republican presidential candidates “throwing crap at each other. … Go Donald [Trump]. This is fun.”
The Super Bowl isn’t sold out yet, but that’s by choice. “We could close it out tomorrow if we wanted,” he says. “But as you get closer and closer to the game, there’s some advertiser … who’s going to beg us for two spots.”
Moonves says that he doesn’t fear changing viewing patterns or skinny bundles because “nobody can live without CBS.”
Although he sees the growing demand for digital and on-demand, “we don’t know how rapidly it’s shifting. But it really doesn’t matter to us. … However quickly it moves, we’re going to be there.”
He’s encouraged by his company’s efforts to attract digital viewers, including through the $6-a-month CBS All Access streaming service. About 85% of the company’s viewers can see local programming on the platform. “There’s only one major [TV station] group not in . They’ll be in there shortly.”
CBS.com “probably” will end up being blended in to All Access, the CEO says. But for now, with fewer episodes, it works as promotional vehicle.
And Moonves says he’s prefer to stand alone than join Comcast, Fox and Disney at Hulu.
But he might volunteer to let the FCC auction to wireless broadband providers some of the airwave spectrum used by CBS-owned stations. “There are four or five markets where we look to get into it in a serious way,” he says — which could mean “a couple of hundred million extra dollars coming our way.”