OnScreen Summit: Moonves Calls CBS-CNN Hookup Unlikely

Exec Also Says CBS Will Be More Aggressive In SVOD Offerings

CBS CEO Leslie Moonves says he isn’t expecting a call from new CNN boss Jeff Zucker suggesting they talk about combining news operations – and doesn’t plan to call Zucker, either.

Speaking at the On Screen Media Summit in New York, Moonves was asked if Zucker’s appointment made it any more or less likely CBS and Time Warner Inc.-owned CNN would join news forces. He said the same control issues and other obstacles that have stood in the way over the years haven’t changed. (Moonves addressed the topic in almost identical terms at the On Screen event two years ago.)

“It’s a tough thing to do, so I would doubt there would be many discussions,” Moonves told B&C editor in chief Melissa Grego in an interview at the event Thursday. She asked if he might call Zucker, in that case, and Moonves said no.

Moonves also said CBS will increase the number of currently-airing shows that make past seasons available to so-called subscription video-on-demand viewers. CBS now delivers library shows to Netflix, and when a series goes off the air, as CSI Miami did in May, all seasons of the show become available on Netflix.

Past episodes of currently-airing series on CW, the network CBS co-owns with Time Warner, are available on Netflix. “In a few instances,” Moonves said, more such shows will be added to SVOD in 2013.

He said CBS has had a couple of years of closely watching the Netflix impact on network advertising, syndication (where CBS procedurals are popular) and retransmission-consent revenue and has decided to go after more SVOD gains. “Frankly, we’re going to be more aggressive, because the realization is, through a couple of years, it’s not going to affect those things in a negative way.”

Moonves also touted CBS’s audience leadership and picked up on Time Warner Cable chairman Glenn Britt’s recent comments about getting tougher in talks with cable networks that few people watch but that distributors are forced to carry in deals that bundle several services together. “I totally agree with him,” Moonves said, adding that “if what Glenn Britt says is true, we should be getting the most money in retrans dollars.”

He repeated past forecasts that CBS’s combined retransmission fees and “reverse compensation” from affiliated stations should total $1 billion in revenue by 2017. “But it doesn’t stop there. It’s going to continue to grow. Our rates are going to get higher and higher.”

The On Screen Media Summit is put on annually by Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable.