CBS Looks To Feed Showtime And Starve Food Network

Les Moonves thinks I can do without the Food Network.

He's dead wrong.  I have no idea how to put together herb-crusted salmon fillets with pistou.

Who's going to show me?  Craig Ferguson?

Moonves, CBS Corp. chairman, was speaking at Morgan Stanley's annual media investor conference, talking a la carte programming--a choice cable consumers may soon get versus having to buy 100 or so channels in massive programming packages.

If viewers could pick only 10 networks, Moonves was sure they would pick CBS as one of the ten. He said, "They can do without the Food Network."  CBS, no doubt, would be the main course of a la carte programming. TV viewers, he says cannot do without David Letterman, "60 Minutes," and "CSI."

Okay, maybe I don't need that recipe.  Taco Bell is just down the corner, and a popular place, and I'm sure a CBS advertiser.



At the same conference, Moonves also talked about Showtime, one of the smallest cable networks, a pay-TV channel with 14 million subscribers, about half that of its main competition, HBO.

CBS, he says, wants to make Showtime more "commercial."  How will that be done?  Moonves didn't exactly say, only that he is "populist" and likes big-rated TV. Moonves isn't thinking of big- rated shows on major advertising-supported cable networks--just programming more like HBO, shows which turned into cultural landmarks, like, for example, "The Sopranos"  and "Sex and the City."

But in a pure populist mode, Showtime might not be the place. "Commercial" programming and pay TV don't go together. CBS might want to reconsider the value of Food Network, an ad-supported cable network that has 83 million subscribers--almost six times that of Showtime.

That's seemingly more popular. Everyone needs to eat.

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