Moonves: We're Willing to Talk To Aereo

But Says He Thinks Business Model Relies On Illegal, Free Content
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CBS president and CEO Les Moonves says he is “open and willing” to talk to Aereo about its latest effort to get a copyright license to carry TV content, but says: "I don't think their business model makes sense unless they were getting content illegally and for free.”

The Supreme Court ruled that Aereo was providing a public performance, not simply remote access to antennas and DVRs, and was illegally distributing TV station content without paying a copyright license. Aereo is now applying for that license, arguing that it is like a cable system—the court said it was very similar—and entitled to a blanket copyright license, after initially arguing it was not.

Moonves was being interviewed at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech Summit in Aspen Tuesday (July 15).

He said Aereo had made a "very good" case to the Supreme Court, but that Aereo's legal strategy was to make it appear that CBS was trying to stop innovation and technology or preventing its content from going online or into the cloud. "Nothing could be further from the truth," he said.

Moonves said he thought CBS had been one of the most progressive companies in looking where its business was going. Moonves said CBS was not against working with Aereo and that there were "certain things that Aereo had that may be able to be used in the future."

Moonves said he would have been willing to negotiate payment from Aereo at the outset, but the company never asked.

Moonves was asked why CBS didn't just do something similar on its own. Moonves said that CBS would have done so if Aereo had won. But he also pointed out that CBS is no longer primarily a broadcast service. "The reason this didn't make sense is that, right now, almost 90% of the people watching CBS are watching from satellite, cable or telco, so in essence we are not so much an over-the-air broadcast. You can still get it, but a very low percentage of our viewers get their content that way."

But, he reiterated. "If Aereo wants to do it legally and approach us about having this content, we are more than willing to talk to them."

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