Skip to main content

OnScreen Summit: Moonves Says CBS News-CNN Merger Not Likely With Zucker at CNN

New York - CBS CEO Leslie Moonves says he isn't expecting a
call from new CNN boss Jeff Zucker suggesting they talk about combining news
operations -- and doesn't plan to call Zucker, either.

Speaking at the B&C/MCN OnScreen
Media Summit in New York on Thursday, Moonves was asked if Zucker's appointment
made it any more or less likely CBS and Time Warner Inc.-owned CNN would join
news forces. He said the same control issues and other obstacles that have
stood in the way over the years haven't changed.  (Moonves addressedthe topic in almost identical terms at the OnScreen event two years ago.)

"It's a tough thing to do, so I would doubt there would
be many discussions," Moonves told B&C
editor-in-chief Melissa Grego in the one-on-one interview. She asked if he
might call Zucker, in that case, and Moonves said no.

Though CBS News and CNN joining news forces is apparently
out of the question, Moonves said that he would "love to own a general
entertainment network." And if there were a possibility to combine, it would be
Time Warner.

"Would I buy Time Warner? Sure, that would be fun," Moonves
said. "[B]ut that's not going to happen."

Moonves also said CBS will increase the number of
currently-airing shows making past seasons available to so-called subscription
video-on-demand viewers. CBS now delivers library shows to Netflix, and when a
CBS series goes off the air, as CSI: Miami did in
May, all seasons of the show become available on Netflix.

Past episodes of currently-airing series on The CW, the
network CBS co-owns with Time Warner, are available on Netflix. "In a few
instances," Moonves said, more such shows will be added to SVOD in 2013.

He said CBS has had a couple of years of closely watching
the Netflix impact on network advertising, syndication (where CBS procedurals
are popular) and retransmission-consent revenue and has decided to go after
more SVOD gains. "Frankly, we're going to be more aggressive, because the
realization is, through a couple of years, it's not going to affect those
things in a negative way."

Though advertisers still rely on that oft-touted adults
18-49 demo, Moonves says that "one of the greatest bullshit numbers of our
business is the 18-49 demographic. Over and over I see lazy reporters writing
the only demographic that advertisers care about." 60 Minutes, he
points out, has a low 18-49 rating but still "makes a lot of money."

Moonves also touted CBS' audience leadership and picked up
on Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO Glenn Britt's recent comments about
getting tougher in talks with cable networks that few people watch. "I
totally agree with him," Moonves said, adding that "if what Glenn
Britt says is true, we should be getting the most money in retrans

He repeated past forecasts that CBS' combined retransmission
fees and "reverse compensation" from affiliated stations should total
$1 billion in revenue by 2017. "But it doesn't stop there. It's going to
continue to grow. Our rates are going to get higher and higher."