5 Buzziest Takeaways From Les Moonves’ NY Mag Interview: Did Brian Williams Jockey for ‘Late Show?’

CBS chairman and CEO says “overnight ratings are virtually useless now” in candid chat with publication

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – AUGUST 10: CEO of CBS Corp. Leslie Moonves attends CBS' 2015 Summer TCA party at the Pacific Design Center on August 10, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

In celebration of his 20th anniversary at the network, CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves opened up to  New York Magazine about his history and philosophy as the leader of a major broadcast network.

In the enlightening interview, Moonves talked about all aspects of his role, including the kind programming put on by CBS, the declining number of people watching live television and the potential consequences of a TV content bubble.

Here’s the five buzziest takeaways from the interview below.

The changing business of TV
Because CBS is still an advertiser-driven network, ratings are an important measure of a show’s success, but they aren’t the only criteria that needs to be taken into consideration.

With more and more people watching TV through DVR, video-on-demand and online, a show’s viewership can no longer be accurately represented by overnight ratings, Moonves said.

But now, with advertising and SVOD and international and other different windowing, it’s almost like the ratings on ‘Zoo’ don’t matter as much because I’m getting paid in a lot of different ways.

I’m not just being Pollyanna-ish about this. I made a statement a few months ago: Overnight ratings are virtually useless now. When I analyze the performance of a show, it is extremely different than it was even five years ago, no less 20 years ago.

The consequences of a TV content bubble
Moonves also gave his take on FX Networks CEO John Landgraf‘s prediction at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour that “there is simply too much television” being produced.

“Oh, there’s no question,” he responded when asked about a growing TV content bubble. “Having said that, it’s a pretty great time in the content business for television, qualitatively.”

I don’t know how they’re going to be able to afford to do it. Netflix has one model — but they have 65 million subs. Some of these smaller places aren’t going to be able to afford to do [programming]. There are too many places doing original content. I don’t know how people are going to find them. There are cable channels nobody’s heard of. And the skinny bundle clearly is something that’s beginning to happen.

Government regulation of cable bundling
Despite being a proponent of the “small bundle” allowing subscribers to choose the content they pay for, Moonves took a hard-line stance against any FCC regulation that would mandate a la carte cable subscriptions.

Washington should stay the heck out of our way. They have no place in these discussions. The key is what does the consumer want to watch, and what’s the level at which they want to pay.

Too many procedurals?
CBS has received more than its fair share of criticism for the kinds of shows it airs. Over Moonves’ 20-year tenure, the network has produced many iterations of “CSI,” “NCIS” and other procedurals.

But Moonves disagrees. Even though networks have begun to place more value in serialized television series, that doesn’t make procedurals any less valuable, he said. The formula of a procedural has proven to work in the past, and Moonves was quick to point out that CBS has a long history of success making those kinds of shows.

[ABC chief] Paul Lee said something in his [TV Critics Association] press tour remarks that I disagree with. Most of what he said I agree with 100 percent, and he did a very good job. But he said serialized things are more valuable than procedurals. No, serialized shows are more valuable than they used to be. ‘Scandal’ still is very valuable, more valuable than before. I’ll take an ‘NCIS’ over that any day, in terms of absolute viability in the world … I do not see, necessarily, the kind of shows we’re doing changing drastically over time. ‘Code Black’ is another version of ‘ER.’ And the reason I like ‘Code Black’? I think it’s the best medical show since ‘ER.’

Brian Williams for “The Late Show”
Moonves had nothing but praise for Stephen Colbert, who is set to make his CBS late-night debut as the new host of “The Late Show” Tuesday. “[CBS marketing chief] George Schweitzer just showed me 30 promos for Colbert, and I love them,” he said. “They were all great. So we’re looking forward to September 8 with great excitement.”

But the exec emphatically refused to comment when asked about New York Magazine’s previous reporting that Brian Williams had also thrown his hat in the ring.

NYMag: Late night is on everyone’s minds right now. My colleague Gabriel Sherman reported that Brian Williams pitched himself for Letterman’s gig before you hired Stephen Colbert. Can you tell me anything about that, and whether you considered it even for a minute?

I’m not going to discuss it.

Was it true?

No comment.