Moonves: CBS Will Get Paid

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CBS is angling to collect license fees for its TV stations similar to what USA Network gets, and the “Tiffany Network” is also planning a series of digital channels, with the first set for late 2006, Viacom Inc. co-chief operating officer Leslie Moonves said at an investors’ conference this week.

“We are going to get paid in the future for our signal,” Moonves said Wednesday at the Merrill Lynch Media and Entertainment Conference in Pasadena, Calif. “The telephone companies are starting to talk to us about these sorts of deals. We have considered it one of the great injustices for many years that we don’t get paid for our signals.”

CBS will not only be seeking cash for carriage for retransmission consent of its stations -- it also plans to demand money for a handful of multicast channels and for on-demand content it supplies to distributors, according to Moonves.

“In the next few years, you are going to see us get paid on VOD [video-on-demand] for our top-quality shows,” he added.

CBS is aiming to launch a CBS 2 in all of its markets that would offer news, sports and local content such as weather and traffic conditions by fall 2006 or early 2007, Moonves said. In the next few years, he added, a “CBS 3, 4 and 5” can be expected, as well.

Viacom will spin off CBS and its MTV Networks cable assets as separate companies next year. Once untied from MTVN -- which has used retransmission consent to get launches for new cable networks -- CBS can actively pursue cash payments for its broadcast signals, according to Moonves.

He expressed frustration that a cable network like USA, when it runs off-network CBS shows, gets paid license fees from distributors while CBS wasn’t compensated for the original airings of those shows.

“You want the NFL [National Football League], you want Survivor, you want [CSI: Crime Scene Investigation], you want [Late Show withDavid Letterman], you are going to have to pay us what you pay USA … You should pay us something,” Moonves said. “That’s part of our game plan, and we think we’re going to be able to do it.”

Depending on the size of the distributor, USA’s monthly per-subscriber license fees can run from 45 cents-60 cents.

“We don’t know what we’re going to get for sub fees,” Moonves said at the conference.

He pointed out that CBS’ retransmission-consent deals with large distributors don’t expire until four or five years from now. But smaller agreements will be up in the interim. Every year, there are deals involving 3 million-5 million that are up, according to Moonves.

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