CBS in its best financial shape in years

Despite increased competition and a tough economy, CBS is doing just fine, thank you. In fact, better (financially) than it has performed in many years, according to Les Moonves, who spoke at last week’s UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference in New York City.

“Everybody calls me a cheerleader, but network television’s doing better than it has done in many years,” Moonves said, noting that his competitors are not doing as well.

Moonves also suggested that it could raise its stock dividend next year because the network is generating more money from retransmission consent deals with pay TV distributors and reverse compensation payments to CBS from its affiliate stations.

If a local station refused to pay CBS (at one time CBS paid stations to carry its shows), then Moonves would consider canceling their affiliation agreement. But, he said, that’s unlikely because CBS’ strong prime-time line-up “is making them a lot of money” by delivering large audiences to local newscasts.

Moonves said he hopes the FCC does not to require that network programming remain on pay TV when distributors balk at retransmission consent payments.

“This is America,” he said. “We’ll make a deal with these guys, or we won’t make a deal.”

He also said he is pleased to sell shows from the CBS library to online streaming services like Netflix.

“The future looks extremely bright for this revenue stream to go on forever,” he noted.

While he said that he considers exclusivity to be “a dirty word,” he now views Netflix as “more friend than foe. We’re rooting for them to expand.”
However, Moonves said he wouldn’t turn over CBS’ current shows to Netflix.

“Those are the family jewels,” he said. “Those are the engines that drive the majority of our revenue.”

Sports is also doing fine, he said. CBS will bid for the NFL, and the price will rise.

“It should go up,” Moonves said. “They’ve delivered. They’re great partners.”

But Moonves said he is “not looking to expand” into other types of sports.
Entertainment programming is responsible for CBS’s current success, Moonves said.

“There’s no question that success breeds success,” he said.

With its large audience, CBS now has a strong platform to promote new shows and focus on just a few at a time.