In a week when media investors are agitated by signs of accelerating decay in pay TV and the growth of skinny bundles, CBS chief Les Moonves assured analysts that “we are not being affected in any way by any changes subscription numbers throughout the industry.”
He also said not to worry about the agreement that headed off a writers strike. “You will not see an adverse effect to the bottom line for us,” Moonves said.
He characterized the deal as “extremely fair” and was “appropriate for the industry” while giving writers “things that are writer-centric.”
Approaching the upfront ad sales season, Moonves said he expects “exceedingly strong” sales that will beat last year’s.
“I know I’m Mr. Broadcast and I’m the cheerleader — I sound like Donald Trump — but I’ve been more right more than I’ve been wrong” by being bullish in previous years, he said.
This time he expects that “almost every” deal will be made based on the number of people who watch a commercial over seven days, known as C7. That would be up from about half last year.
The difference between C7 and the current three-day C3 numbers “are quite large and getting larger” Moonves said. “This will be found money. Advertisers have been getting those days for free, and that is not fair. … It means there will be more viewers counted.”
He hasn’t made final decisions on a few shows that will make it on to CBS’ fall schedule, but he told analysts that the result shouldn’t change its expected programming budget.
With 18 returning shows, the company ordered fewer pilots — eight dramas and eight comedies. Even so, “I know right now that we’re going to be in good shape,” he said.
On the digital front, Moonves said that the company next week will begin to offer CBS All Access and Showtime’s streaming service as a single bundle.
He anticipates a spike in interest in CBS All Access later this year when it offers “a full season of the NFL” vs. two weeks last year.
Moonves said he likes “the hand we were dealt this year” in the Thursday Night Football matches CBS was able to broadcast. The company is “interested in renewing” the deal with the NFL. “It helps an awful lot to have that in primetime, taken care of.”
CBS is on the new Hulu With Live TV streaming service — but not DirecTV Now or Sling TV. Talks with them “are ongoing … but it’s complicated,” said CFO Joseph Ianniello.
Moonves said he’d consider making a deal with Facebook or Snapchat to provide them with CBS content by sharing revenues, as opposed to collecting a license fee.
“We have to look at it,” he said. “It would be silly for us to ignore Facebook and Snapchat. We would be open to considering it. They do need premium content, and that’s what we provide.”
As for the expected rush to buy TV stations if the FCC relaxes ownership restrictions, the CEO said he “wouldn’t mind” adding to his group but doesn’t “feel a need” to buy a big group.
Moonves also said today that he isn’t worried if Fox, in partnership with the Blackstone Group, buys Tribune Media. It owns six CBS affiliates.
“If Fox buys it, they can come to our affiliate meeting,” the exec said. “I’ll have Rupert [Murdoch] up on stage with me. It will be fine. It won’t affect us at all.”
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