Moonves: CBS to Seek Cash for Retrans

Viacom Inc. co-chief operating officer Les Moonves said the company’s CBS broadcast network would seek cash for carriage in the future if the planned split of Viacom’s cable and broadcast networks goes ahead as planned.

Viacom proposed splitting the company in two units -- one headed by co-COO Tom Freston and including its growth assets (cable channels and the Paramount Pictures movie studio) and one headed by Moonves and including its more stable properties (CBS, Showtime Networks Inc., Infinity Radio and Infinity Outdoor) -- in March.

At its annual meeting May 26, Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone said the company’s board of directors would decide whether to go through with the separation by the end of June.

At the Deutsche Bank Securities Media & Telecommunications conference Monday, Moonves said that if the split does happen -- and he added that it is likely -- CBS will likely ask cable operators for cash for retransmission consent.

“We’re tired of not getting paid, or not getting paid properly, for the CBS programming,” Moonves said.

While Moonves added that most of CBS’ carriage deals with major operators won’t expire for another three to five years, he said MSOs should expect to pay cash to carry the network after that.

Moonves said he has already been talking with CBS affiliates about such a move -- he said the affiliate stations want assurances that if they are having trouble with cable operators, CBS will “back them up and not dump the signal into a different market.”

Moonves acknowledged that cash for retrans is a controversial issue with MSOs, but he said it will happen nonetheless.

“If the split happens, we would be a stand-alone and in a unique position that no other network has been in for quite awhile,” Moonves said. “The future of that looks pretty bright for us. Needless to say, the cable operators are not happy with me stating this, but it’s a new day and I want to get paid for my good programming.”