CBS' Moonves Predicts Strong Sales, Upfront


  CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves said he finds Google TV a "very interesting" distribution platform, but is holding off on making a deal, despite criticism from Google's Eric Schmidt.

Schmidt, Google CEO, has said that networks blocking their shows from being streamed on the Web-on-TV service are looking backwards.

"We're not sure what it would do to our business, no reason to jump in," Moonves said. "I know Mr. Schmidt has said that we're chicken and our head is in the sand. I would beg to differ -- I think that we're rather forward-thinking."

Still, he said CBS is evaluating the Google platform. Moonves has maintained throughout the digital-video onslaught that CBS feels better with full control of its content, rather than pursuing certain licensing options or partnerships.

Separately, at a UBS investor event, Moonves said scatter pricing at CBS is pacing 35% above upfront rates, both for current buys and bookings in the first quarter. Never one to avoid posturing for the next upfront, Moonves said that market looks to be even stronger next summer.



If scatter is robust, he figures advertisers may toss more into the upfront in order to avoid paying more later. "The upfront should be even better," he said.

Elsewhere within the company, he said sales at local stations are strong in the first quarter -- which is traditionally a slower period. CBS shares hit a 52-week high in trading Tuesday at $18.12.

Moonves has said many times that CBS deserves to be paid more by cable /subscriber/telco operators for rights to carry its stations than they pay lesser-watched cable channels. "Eventually, that's going to happen." he said.

In syndication deals, CBS is willing to bundle on-air and online streaming rights. USA, for example, has a deal to pay CBS $2.35 million an episode for "NCIS: Los Angeles" that includes full-episode streaming.

Moonves said Turner has indicated it will insist on those rights in any deal. "If they're willing to pay for that, we're more than happy to sell it to them."

Globally, Moonves said, three new shows on CBS -- "Hawaii Five-O," "Blue Bloods," and "The Defenders" -- have all sold for more than $2 million an episode in foreign markets.

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