Moonves: CBS Wants Retrans Cash

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Viacom Inc. co-chief operating officer Leslie Moonves said once again last week the CBS Television Network would seek cash for carriage in future, especially if the planned split of Viacom’s cable and broadcast networks goes ahead as planned.

Viacom’s proposed split of the company into two units — one headed by co-chief operating officer Tom Freston and including its growth assets (cable channels and the Paramount Pictures movie studio) and one headed by Moonves and including its more stable properties (CBS, Showtime, Infinity Radio and Infinity Outdoor) in March.

At its May 26 annual meeting, Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone said the company’s board of directors would decide whether to go through with the separation by the end of June.

READY WITH REQUEST

Last Monday, at the Deutsche Bank Securities Media & Telecommunications conference, Moonves said if the split does happen — and he said it’s likely it will — CBS will be ready to seek for retransmission consent.

“We’re tired of not getting paid, or not getting paid properly, for the CBS programming,” Moonves said.

He had made similar comments during a quarterly results call in April about CBS’s likely bid for retrans cash, but went further last week.

While most CBS carriage deals with major operators won’t expire for another three to five years, Moonves said MSOs should expect to pay cash to carry the network after that.

He said he’s been talking with CBS affiliates about such a move already — and affiliate stations want assurances that if they are having trouble with cable operators, CBS will “back them up and not dump the signal into a different market.”

Moonves acknowledged cash for retrans is controversial with MSOs, but said it will happen nonetheless.

“If the split happens, we would be a standalone and in a unique position that no other network has been in for quite awhile,” Moonves said. “The future of that looks pretty bright for us. Needless to say, the cable operators are not happy with me stating this, but it’s a new day and I want to get paid for my good programming.”

Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO Glenn Britt, also Monday at the same conference, had a reply for Moonves.

“There are certainly people out there talking about getting cash for retransmission consent,” Britt said. “And obviously it is in our interests to resist that. So we’ll have tough negotiations.

“The only thing I would add to that is I think the regulatory environment is shaky and broadcasters have been resisting giving the extra spectrum back that they got for high-def, they’ve been resisting trading things for that like more public service programming, there is the indecency issue. So it’s probably not a good idea for the broadcast community to start getting really piggy on retrans, which by the way then gets passed to customers and becomes a big political issue.”

RALEIGH GLITCHES

Britt also said technical glitches held back a wide scale deployment of a combined Road Runner Plus AOL service beyond Raleigh, N.C., but added that those problems have been solved and the combined service is being rolled out in additional markets.

Time Warner Cable announced a joint marketing initiative in February called Road Runner Plus AOL, aimed at migrating narrowband America Online users to Time Warner’s Road Runner high-speed data service.

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