CBS’ Moonves Still Talking Retrans Cash


CBS CEO Les Moonves dropped no bombshells at the Bear, Stearns Media Conference in Palm Beach, Fla., Monday, but he reiterated his desire to receive cash compensation for retransmission consent for his television stations.

Moonves once again used an ESPN analogyregarding his quest for retransmission-consent cash, telling the audience that if a large operator like Comcast pays $3.25 per subscriber, per month for Disney’s ESPN cable channel, 50 cents of that payment is being made for Disney’s ABC broadcast network.

Moonves said that while the cable operator may say that it is not paying cash for retrans and the station owner could claim the opposite, he doesn’t care where the money comes from, as long as it comes in.

“Who cares what they call it?” he added. “It’s all going into the same pot.”

The network’s retrans deals with major operators don’t expire until 2009 and 2010. In a conference call with analysts to discuss fourth-quarter results Feb. 27, Moonves said he would be willing to negotiate with the bigger operators before their deals expire.

Moonves said the deal CBS struck with nine small cable operators last week for about 1 million subscribers will pump about $6 million per year into CBS coffers. While that is a small amount relative to CBS’ overall revenue -- $14.3 billion for 2006 -- it is a start.

“We are going to get paid for our content,” he added. “The future of our company, whether it’s retrans, whether it’s Internet, we have phenomenal content and we’re now going to get paid in more and more ways.”

Moonves added that while CBS programming is available online -- it reached a deal with YouTube last year to provide its programming to the popular viral-video site -- it has primarily been a promotional tool. And he said the reason why CBS hasn’t done more Internet deals is partly due to respect.

“The disputes we’re having with the technology guys -- the Google guys, the Yahoo guys and all of those guys -- is that they don’t quite respect the content enough,” Moonves said. “They’re beginning to. The reason there is a bit of a struggle -- and I think we will get through it -- is people who grow up with technology do not value the content enough. You can never get away from the fact that content is still going to be running the show.”