Speaking at the Bear Stearns Media conference in Palm Beach, Fla., CBS CEO Les Moonves said he’s surprised by Rupert Murdoch’s slowdown comments. If CBS has seen any ad sales drop, he says, it’s been offset by political spending.
Les also talked at length about different digital convergence opportunities, especially with sports. The revenue from the NCAA March Madness tournament has increased by almost 100x since CBS stopped asking consumers to pay to watch the tournament online, he says. Advertsising revenue from the basketball games this month should hit at least $21 million.
On the eve of the Hulu launch, Les also criticised his competitors’ attempts to go online, though he didn’t call anyone out by name. He said he doesn’t want to see just a regurgitation of programming on the Web. CBS should put interactive programming on the Web, not just replays of TV shows. This sounds an awful lot like what CBS digital boss Quincy Smith has been saying.
Notes from the speech
7:55: The speech starts
8:05: Moonves acknowledges the economy doesn’t look good, says CBS still looks great. This is mostly because of political advertising. “We want this to be as long and as dirty as possible.” (The presidential campaign). Moonves said he was surprised that Murdoch’s stations were in the state they were in because he thought that political spending would have counterbalanced a slowdown.
8:10: People shouldn’t jump to conclusions that he’ll make an acquisition. But he said that the next couple of years will be good for CBS and there may be some deals out there.
8:12: Three to four years from now we’ll have $750 million in digital revenue primarily from CBS properties spread out across the Internet.
8:15: Live entertainment and sports are doing extremely well on the TV front and on the digital front. Best year ever for the NFL and NCAA is almost sold out. March Madness on-demand, the service that allows viewers to watch games online during the day went from making $250K three years ago to $22-$23 million because of the move from subscription to advertising. The NCAA tournament is 95% sold out.
8:20: Reiterates that upfronts will be different, development of programming will be different. Basically same statements as the Citigroup’s media conference in January.
8:22: “I want to make hit movies.” He said they will do 4-6 medium budget ($10-$50 million) movies per year and they will make use of Showtime for those movies.
8:25: “2009 will be a banner year for syndication.” He said they will have five or six titles in syndication that they don’t have this year.
8:27: Will they spin off divisions? No, he said, that’s already been done when CBS and Viacom split.
8:30: He reiterates again that radio’s revenue will grow this year. But, you have to add in online.
8:40: Says he believes in the affiliate system but there may come a day when there’s some sort of payment to the network for the content it provides.
8:44: “Psychologically people are saying that Showtime is the new HBO.”
8:46: Dexter, which was moved to CBS from Showtime during the writers’ strike, could be a way to do things in the future. Was beneficial to both CBS (because of dearth of new programming) and Showtime (because it had the potential to bring in subscribers).
8:48: Online is going to grow in leaps and bounds, but certain things work better in certain mediums. Says he doesn’t want the Internet to just be TV on a smaller screen.
8:49: CW: He’s disappointed in the ratings, but joint ventures are always hard.
8:50: Speech ends.