Les Moonves is a digital immigrant, but he appears to have become a loyal citizen of the medium based on his comments today at, and after, Re/Code’s Code Conference. He said CBS “probably” will be included in Apple’s planned TV platform and talked up plans to launch a stand-alone Showtime platform.
The Apple talks are still “early,” but he met last week with media chief Eddy Cue. “When Apple calls, you always listen,” Moonves told CNBC. The electronics company plans a slimmed-down bundle of channels that presumably would cost less than a traditional cable or satellite package. “In a 15-to-17-channel universe, we always have to be there,” Moonves said. The only issue is how much Apple is willing to pay.
Speaking hypothetically, he told the conference that if Apple wants to buy CBS then “bring ’em on.” But he added that he won’t personally lead an effort to buy the company — something he acknowledged that he’d like to do if he could. “Although I’m well compensated, I can’t afford $30 billion.” (Not for nothing: Controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone has said he doesn’t want to sell CBS.)
Moonves, who led broadcasters’ attack on streaming service Aereo, forgave Twitter after people using its Periscope app streamed the Mayweather-Pacquiao championship fight, which cost Showtime and HBO a bundle to license. “I was not happy,” Moonves says, but he told the confab that “I don’t think the intent of Periscope is piracy. It’s not Aereo.” He intends to meet soon with Twitter CEO Dick Costolo.
Having embraced the concept of skinny programming bundles, Moonves doesn’t object to Verizon FiOS’ effort to offer a basic service that leaves out mainstays such as ESPN. The sports channel has sued Verizon for breach of contract, a charge the telco rejects.
Moonves says that Showtime will introduce its streaming service “soon” and said it will be “similar to what HBO did” with HBO Now. “They’ve done extraordinarily well.”
On other topics, the CBS chief says he expects Charter to have better luck with its effort to purchase Time Warner Cable than Comcast did. He had some concerns about the cable giant’s deal, but is less concerned about the current one. It shows that Liberty Media’s John Malone, Charter’s dominant shareholder, “is the smartest man in cable.”
Moonves acknowledged that he’s getting used to his Apple Watch. But he doesn’t follow Rupert Murdoch’s example and write tweets with his thoughts about the world. “My people won’t let me go on Twitter,” he says.