TV-online ad parity only 3-5 years away: Moonves

Published: Wednesday, 4 Sep 2013 | 10:49 AM ET
By: Matthew J. Belvedere     

Wednesday, 4 Sep 2013 | 8:36 AM ET

Leslie Moonves, president and CEO, CBS Corp., says he's very happy with the way things ended up with Time Warner Cable, but at the end of the day, it was important to take a stand for content.

Advertising rates on network television and for TV show viewing online will soon be the same, "so we won't care where you watch," CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves told CNBC on Wednesday.

Moonves—fresh from his network's win over Time Warner Cable in their contract dispute—predicted in a "Squawk Box" interview that ad parity could come in three to five years. "If you go on a college campus today, most of the kids are watching their shows online."

That's why CBS had pushed back so hard on Time Warner Cable over digital rights. "One of the things that we won," he said, "is the ability to slice and dice our content all over the place. To put it on Netflix, to put it on Amazon, to let people binge-view."

CBS also got TWC to pay higher network retransmission fees. "We are the No. 1 network ... for 10 of the last 11 years," Moonves said. "Don't you think we should get fair value for that?"

"It was important that we take a stand," he contended. "This is about content and the future of content, and how content is sold and goes to our consumers."

CBS and TWC had been at odds since Aug. 2, when talks broke down and CBS, Showtime and other CBS-owned channels were blacked out in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and other smaller markets.

"We are sorry we were off the air for such a long period of time," Moonves added. "There are no heroes in this thing. I'm sure the public resents both sides."

He said it was no coincidence that the dispute was settled six days before the start of the NFL regular season. "We have a phenomenal relationship with the NFL. We pay them a huge amount of money, but we get great return for that because it's the most popular entertainment on television."

As for rumors that Google, or even Netflix, might make a play for some NFL programming, Moonves acknowledged, "The NFL will obviously have some of their product online. Until it takes away from our audience, which it isn't doing, we're all in favor of it."

The CBS-owned Showtime channel, like HBO, has had success with critically acclaimed series. Asked why the networks don't pursue edgy programs like Showtime's "Homeland," Moonves said it's about the numbers.

"There is a lot of great programming going on in cable. Network is very different. You need a much more mass appeal," he explained. "The numbers on cable, phenomenal product qualitatively, but the numbers are much smaller."


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