CBS Corporation chief Leslie Moonves said Tuesday he did not know the recent ouster of his Viacom counterpart Tom Freston was coming.
Speaking at a Tuesday luncheon in Beverly Hills hosted by the Hollywood Radio & Television Society, Moonves said he found out about the move when Sumner Redstone called him while Moonves was attending the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York.
“He said he was replacing Tom with Phillipe Dauman and Tom Dooley and the board had decided to do this along with him,” Moonves said.
A tight-lipped Moonves, however, did not want to speculate on the reasoning behind the move.
“I don’t want to talk a lot about Viacom because I don’t want to get myself into trouble,” he said.
In a 55-minute interview with Charlie Rose that is set to air on Rose’s television show later this week, an otherwise-outspoken Moonves also reiterated he was happy for CBS to originally be looked upon by Wall Street as the company with less growth opportunity when Viacom split its assets.
“I’m not usually considered the underdog, but it was a good position to be in,” he said.“As long as they established us that way, that was fine with us.”
When asked about future acquisitions, Moonves said he will be cautious.
“Wall Street likes us, so I’m not going to do anything dumb.”
He did say that he does have his eye on one area that other media companies have already bought into.
“We are looking at investing in the some of the new media assets out there.I’d like to invest in some of the new social networking technologies.”
Moonves added he is taking a look at Facebook.com, “like everyone is,” and would be interested in You Tube at the right price, but not at the values being thrown around currently.
He also spoke about the addition of Katie Couric to his news division, saying that after being in last place for a decade at 6:30, just being competitive again was “all we can ask for.”
Moonves also said his task is to lower the median age of the newscast.
“We have to get some younger people, and by younger I mean like 47,” he laughed.
Responding to questions of how a CEO can still have time to be so heavily involved in the primetime decision making from reading scripts to weighing in on casting, Moonves said that it is just the way he does business, and that his staff has grown accustomed to it.
“They are used to me being a pain in the neck,” he said.
Moonves also had a couple of his typically-confident barbs, such as when he told Rose that companies like Yahoo! and Google need his content because they don’t have the models to create their own.
“Lloyd Braun came down, he wanted to eat us all alive,” Moonves said of the former ABC entertainment chief now at Yahoo.“It didn’t work.”
When told that Fox News chief Roger Ailes is talking about “My Space Television,” Moonves fired back, “Is it going to be better than MyNetworkTV?”
At one point in the interview, Rose looked at Moonves and said, “You seem to be a bit cocky.”
“I’m speechless,” a smiling Moonves responded.
Among other highlights of the conversation:
·Moonves, when asked why dramas are doing so well right now: “If I knew the answer to that question, I would be very rich.Actually, I am very rich.”
·On the battle with advertisers over which TiVo measurement should be used: “They won this year, I think we will win next year.”
·On wishing he would have gotten Paramount Pictures when Viacom split: “I won’t deny that.Sumner made a decision and life goes on.”
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