CBS Chief Raises Retransmission Revenue Estimate, And Says Aereo’s No Threat

This should impress Wall Street, although perhaps not the CBS lawyers who likely will tell U.S. Supreme Court justices why it’s so important for them to block the streaming service. CEO Les Moonves told analysts this evening that by 2020 CBS should collect at least $2B a year from cable and satellite companies that want to distribute its programming — up from his previous projection of $1B by 2017. The cash will come from its O&Os as well as reverse compensation payments from affiliates that also charge pay TV distributors that carry their signals. “We’ve exceeded our target every time we’ve given you one,” Moonves says. It’s part of his campaign to persuade investors that the cash will continue to flow even if ad sales flatten or decline. One analyst asked, though, whether CBS can still hit its $2B target if the high court rejects broadcasters’ arguments that Aereo infringes on their copyrights by streaming their over-the-air programming without paying them a dime. If Aereo wins, many believe, then cable and satellite companies might try to replicate the service so they, too, can avoid the rising outlays. “We will hit that number regardless of what happens with Aereo,” Moonves says. Indeed, he noted, even though he expects broadcasters to win, if they don’t then “we’re not going to be financially handicapped at all.” The companies have “a host of alternatives,” including creating their own Aereo-like streaming service, so “we can adjust and thrive no matter how this unfolds.” Moonves has said that CBS could take its prime time shows off the airwaves and just offer them on cable or satellite. But he said today that keeping them on over-the-air TV “remains our first option.” The Supreme Court plans to hear arguments on the Aereo case on April 22.

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