CBS CEO Les Moonves told the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference he has “no burning desire” to acquire anything, but “looking down the road, you always say, could we manage some of the cable assets that are out there better than some of the other people? There’s no question about that.”
On the case of a general entertainment cable channel, he said “I think we could program it pretty darn well. We’ve got a great library. We obviously are programming people. We know how to do this. We’ve been the No. 1 network nine of the last 10 years. We know this business. We know how to make networks work.”
Speaking of cable networks, Moonves pointed to the success of Showtime. At a time when some industry observers have expected no grow in pay cable, he said, Showtime’s subscribers have risen to 22 million from 13 million in the last five or six years.
In addition, as CBS has signed new carriage deals with distributors, “Showtime is going to be paid more money,” Moonves said. “Showtime…is much hotter than it ever was because of their programming and people are paying more for Showtime. People want Showtime. So as other pay services may be going down, either creatively or in terms of their sub, Showtime is a great success story in the pay window. And once again, over the past five years, Showtime has gone from making approximately $200 million to making over $750 million this year,” he said.
Moonves also took a shot at technologies that could adversely affect revenues. He said Dish Network’s ad-skipping Hopper DVR can’t exist. “If they want to eliminate our commercials, we will not be in business with them,” He said. “If they want to continue down that line, then we will just not be on Dish. We will go elsewhere.”
Regarding Aereo, which retransmits broadcast programming over the Internet without paying the retransmission fees cable and other distributors pay, Moonves declared “there’s no way we put out what we’re doing, there’s no way we’re spending the money we’re spending on sports, on programming, that we are not going to get paid appropriately in either sub fees or in advertising fees. That is how we make our money. That is why we can provide the product we do. If you want to get crummy user-generated product, go on YouTube. CBS is not YouTube.”