TCA: Moonves Says CBS 'Open to Any Way of Doing Business'

CEO Touts New Models for 'Under the Dome,' 'Hostages'; Weighs in on Time Warner Cable Retrans Dispute

Los Angeles -- CBS may be the network achieving the most success under the traditional broadcast model, but that doesn't mean it's not open to new models, said CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves at the TCA press tour on Monday.

"Yes, we are traditional in how we approach the business, but we're pretty nimble and we're able to make appropriate deals," said Moonves, who led CBS' executive session in place of CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler, who was unable to attend due to the death of a close friend. "We still are open to any way of doing business as long as we can make new shows and make them profitable."

He pointed to experimental models like this summer's Under the Dome, which sold in-season streaming rights to Amazon; its syndication deal for The Good Wife, which includes a Netflix component; and Hostages, which got a 15-episode order. Moonves said he still expected the traditional model "to be sustainable for a long time....When [new models] achieves the level of NCIS, the world will have changed."

And even for shows that employ a different business model, the network would still like to produce as many seasons as possible. "We didn't put [Hostages] on just to have 15 episodes," he said. "We put it on to have multiple seasons." As for Dome, which was just renewed for a second season, Moonves expressed confidence the story line could be extended for many seasons. "Why can't they be under the dome for a long period of time? This is television," he quipped.

 Other highlights from CBS' executive session included:

  • Unsurprisingly, the first question Moonves fielded was about the status of CBS' standoff with Time Warner Cable over retransmission fees, which faces a Monday at 5 p.m. ET deadline. "I really don't want to negotiate in the press, that's probably not the best way to do it," he said, noting that he had been on the phone as recently as 15 minutes prior negotiating. "Conversations are going on. I hope we don't go dark."
  • Big Brother has drawn much attention this summer for the racist and offensive comments made by some houseguests, forcing the network to run disclaimers at the beginning of the program. "Big Brother is a social experiment, it always was," Moonves said. "Clearly that's what's happening this year. I find some of the behavior absolutely appalling. I think we've handled it appropriately."
  • Despite NBC's decision to dump its aging late night star Jay Leno (again) in 2014, Moonves said CBS remains committed to David Letterman. "I consider David Letterman the best guy in late night. We love having him," he said. "We like the stability, we like the relationship with have with Dave. Contrary to popular belief, we don't like drama at 11:30."
  • While Moonves said "we expect to hopefully continue with [Amazon] in the future," on the streaming deal for Under the Dome, it is not looking to acquire a stake in a technology company like Netflix, just as it declined to join the other broadcast networks in Hulu. "It's something that we've never considered," he said.
  • Daytime soaps have been decimated in recent years, but Moonves said he is behind CBS' two remaining entries, The Bold and the Beautiful and Young and the Restless, touting growth among those and CBS' three other daytime shows this year. "They're doing well, they're profitable," he said. "We believe those two soaps will be on for a long, long time. We don't think the model is dead."
  • CBS This Morning and the CBS Evening News are still in third place in the ratings, but Moonves applauded their year-over-year growth saying, "Yeah, they're still in third but qualitatively they're so much better than they have been before," he said. "It takes a long time to turn around these battleships. I couldn't be happier with both those broadcasts both ratings-wise and quality-wise."