CBS CEO Leslie Moonves reiterated his company’s interest in owning a general-entertainment network Thursday, but said the costs to acquire one may
outstrip the value.
He said CBS could “absolutely” operate one better than current management -- “we’re programmers and producers” -– but would only move at a “reasonable price.”
“You guys don’t want us to do anything stupid, and we’re not going to do anything stupid,” Moonves told investors.
Separately, CBS -- which has made recent deals with some large operators -- is in negotiations on a renewal with DirecTV. That deal would be the first between the current CBS Corp. since it split with Viacom and its cable outlets, Moonves said.
CBS is mindful when it does deals with Netflix and Amazon to offer programming that does not cannibalize its on-air viewing, so it looks to offer shows that are no longer on CBS, he noted.
“The biggest bucket remains the advertising bucket,” and CBS does not want to chip away at that, he said.
On the prospect of NBC mounting a challenge to CBS under Comcast, he said: “The NBC group is better than the last NBC group; there’s no question they’re going to be more competitive.”
Moonves said each sports rights deal CBS has makes money solely on ad dollars, meaning that any benefit from carriage deals would simply add to profits.
CBS’ previous NCAA March Madness deal was a money loser. Now, CBS has a partnership with Turner, and the tournament has changed “from a loser to a profit-maker right away.”
The deal does have a benefit: Turner parent Time Warner effectively indemnifies CBS each year. When rights and production costs exceed ad and sponsorship dollars, CBS’ losses are limited to between $30 million and $90 million. According to Time Warner’s annual report, CBS received some compensation that would have come from it experiencing a loss in 2011.
Moonves said CBS declined to get deeply involved in negotiations to acquire Major League Baseball rights, adding that CBS at the broadcast network level feels it has no holes in its portfolio.