Speaking at an investor event Wednesday, Moonves said pricing is much higher than what an advertiser could have had in the upfront just a few months ago. That's all the more surprising since the new season has barely begun. NFL sales have been strong, which is helping.
"I really don't understand a planner who waits two months and has to pay 30% more for their advertising, but if they want to wait we're very happy to have them wait," he said. "We're happy to take their money when it becomes much more scarce to have our advertising."
Looking to 2011, Moonves said even without the Super Bowl and fewer NCAA tournament games, CBS should be more profitable than a year ago. Revenue may drop, but so will sports rights fees.
The Super Bowl provides minimal profit and the "NCAA frankly was a loser for that contract," Moonves said. Under a new deal, CBS will begin sharing the tournament with Turner Broadcasting in the spring. The new contract limits losses CBS could suffer.
Moonves was equally bullish about the local TV ad market, where CBS is particularly exposed, with a slew of stations. He said the business is strong now with political spending, but should be improved next year, even without candidate dollars. Greater auto spending and some advertisers being crowded out because of the political dollars should be drivers.
"We're guardedly optimistic that we're going to have a very strong '11," he said.
In radio, Moonves said it is growing in the "high single-digit" range; the company continues to want to sell some stations. Outdoor ad sales were the last to recover from the downturn, but have begun to rebound.
Moonves said he is open to "TV Everywhere"-type models for online streaming and a new carriage deal with Comcast allows for some of that (notably with Showtime). But he indicated CBS wants to ensure there are ratings that combine viewing online and on-air, something Nielsen is working on.
The CW network, which CBS owns with Warner Bros., is now selling advertisers packages in which their ads run on-air and online. Moonves said the CW loses money partly because so many young women watch a series like "Gossip Girl" online, while CBS and Warner are not being compensated for it.
He did say that CBS and Warner Bros. are profiting from the CW at large since they own the shows that air on it and are able to sell them overseas.