Moonves: CBS Still Talking to AT&T on DirecTV Now

CBS is one of the few major networks that isn’t on AT&T's new streaming service DirecTV Now, but the broadcaster’s CEO says the companies are still talking.

Speaking at the annual UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York, Leslie Moonves said “I’m assuming we’ll be able to make a deal with them.”

Moonves said there are still a few issues other than sub fees on the table, including stacking rights and other digital rights.

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“We’re known as being tough negotiators," Moonves noted, but he said CBS was not being unfair. He added that because CBS has just the one major broadcast network, plus Showtime, it is different than most of the other big media companies AT&T has negotiated with.

He also noted that CBS has more or less agreed to a streaming deal with YouTube.

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Moonves said that CBS was an essential part of any TV platform, because of the big audiences shows like The Big Bang Theory and NCIS generate and the strong followings of 60 Minutes and James Corden in late night. “You wouldn’t want to be in Boston and not have the Patriots game on your system. My guess is people wouldn’t stay on your system very long.”

At an initial price of $35 a month, Moonves said DirecTV was likely to be attractive to consumers, but a money loser for AT&T. He added that while DirecTV Now is offering HBO for $5 a month, “they’re not going to get Showtime at $5 a sub."

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Moonves shed little new light on the potential combination with Viacom. “We’re looking at it. We’ll see what happens,” he said.  Both companies are controlled by the family of Sumner Redstone.

He added that while CBS was small compared to a Disney, a Comcast or an Apple, “there’s nothing we want, there’s nothing we lack.” He noted that CBS stock recently hit a 52-week high. “Will we ever be the scale of Disney or Apple? I doubt it, and we’re able to play the game just fine.”

Moonves also said that the hit comedy Big Bang Theory has not yet been renewed but that talks were ongoing with Warner Bros., which makes the show, and the show’s cast. “We’re guardedly optimistic,”  he said.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.