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Moonves: Netflix Is Our Friend

Leslie Moonves, CBS Corp. president and CEO, was his usual sunny self at the Paley Center confab in Los Angeles Sept. 15, bandying around terms like "win" and "top of our game" and "bright future" and mentioning CBS's top spot among the broadcast networks more than a few times. Moonves also took some shots, chastising a former network chief, as he's done before, for saying network TV is dead, and describing a recent encounter with NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, who Moonves said used to be adamant about not paying out retrans while with Comcast, but has sounded a different note after the merger with NBC.

"The world is changing drastically," Moonves said of the shifting rules of retrans.

Moonves also denounced the annual network upfront presentations, calling it a "silly system."

But one concept he did not take a poke at was Netflix. While some leaders at content companies are squeamish about the digital distributor's forays into programming, Moonves said a successful Netflix means a successful CBS. "He who has the most content wins," he said, referring to CBS' prodigious library. "We root for them so they can buy our content. We view them as a friend."

Interviewed by Aryeh Bourkoff of UBS, Moonves said around 64% of the corporation's revenue comes from advertising, down from 70% in recent years, and heading toward below 60% in five years' time, as streams such as retrans and cable sub fees kick cash to the company coffers.

Moonves said local advertising, on TV and radio stations, has been a bit soft. But he expects that to change as the political season heats up. "We think 2012 will be a phenomenal year," he said. "There is going to be a lot of money spent on local television stations."

Speaking at the annual TVB Forward conference Sept. 14, CMAG President Kenneth Goldstein said political should represent $2.5 to $3.3 billion for stations next year.

Moonves joked about his tendency to brag, but noted that CBS is not only the top broadcast network, but is ahead of the hundreds of cable networks, and the countless web properties filling up the expanded media landscape. "We are still the best game in town," he said. "No advertiser can do a major product launch without us."