CBS chief Les Moonves declined to address the question everyone was waiting to hear him discuss: whether he’d like to recombine with Viacom if controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone reasserts control over the properties, and wants to put them together.
“I’m not going to talk directly about Viacom,” Moonves said in response to an analyst question in a conference call to discuss Q2 earnings. “We feel very complete…We’re not going to conjecture about potential acquisitions or M&As. We look at every M&A opportunity. We looked at Starz before that deal was made with Lionsgate.”
All in all, he says, “we feel like we’re dealing from a position of strength.”
Well, perhaps. Redstone is even stronger, with 80% of the votes at CBS and Viacom.
He and his daughter Shari are engaged in a multi-front legal battle to oust Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman.
Many company watchers speculate that, if they prevail, they might want to put the two companies together under Moonves.
On another front, the CBS chief says his Showtime and CBS All Access streaming services together have more than 2 million subscribers which is “well ahead of where we thought we’d be.”
The company had promised that the two services would have 8 million subscribers by 2020, and generate $800 million in new revenue. Based on what he has seen, Moonves says he’s “confident that will easily be achieved.”
In addition, the recent upfront ad sales market “played out exactly as we set up the playbook.” CBS ended up with double digit increases in the price charged for each 1,000 viewers. The percentage of inventory sold was in the “high 70s,” a deliberate choice to take advantage of what he says is a strong scatter market.
“It closed quickly, cleanly and in a positive manner,” Moonves says. “So let the games begin.”