CBS Boss Les Moonves Says Company Doesn’t ‘Need Any Partners’

Company president and CEO also says he’s eyeing $5 million or $6 million for Super Bowl ads next year

Les Moonves
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CBS doesn’t plan on merging with anybody else anytime soon. At least, that was the message that CBS Corporation president and CEO Les Moonves put out during an earnings call on Thursday.

Amid growing media speculation that CBS might merge with Viacom should Sumner Redstone, majority owner of CBS and Viacom, die, Moonves shot down the notion of a merger, saying that CBS is doing alright on its own.

“Obviously there is a ton of noise out there,” Moonves noted during the call, when the prospect of consolidation popped up. “We’re feeling pretty strong about ourselves and don’t need any partners.”

While Moonves conceded that some would suggest that CBS might gain more clout for negotiations if it consolidated with another company, he noted that he thinks the company is doing quite well on that front already.

“We think we have quite a bit of clout in every negotiation we have done,” Moonves noted. “We feel pretty good about ourselves as a company.”

While CBS might not be interested in getting hitched to another company, it continues to forge relationships, casual and otherwise. During the call, Moonves touted a recent agreement to license CBS’s cable channel Showtime to Canadian company Bell Media.

“This is the first time the entire Showtime brand is being monetized in this way,” Moonves noted, adding that the licensing deal was possible because “we now own virtually our entire Showtime schedule.”

Moonves also reflected on its new streaming service CBS All Access — which launched in the fall — noting that “subscriptions are selling faster than we expected,” with its biggest surge in subscriptions coming from the recent Grammy Awards.

As far as the network’s upcoming programming schedule, Moonves noted that, while there won’t be a lot of turnover, but the new shows will be in “very protected” timeslots. Estimating that the network might do eight comedy pilots and about the same number of drama pilots this season, Moonves said, “our schedule is really, really very solid; there are very few holes.”

The upside for new offerings hoping to find a place on the network’s slate? “Coming to CBS, the story is, yeah, it’s tougher to get on the air, but if you are on the air, your chances of success will be a lot greater.”

CBS saw record revenue in the fourth quarter of 2014, thanks largely to increased advertising from “Thursday Night Football” and political revenue from the midterm elections. Peering into the crystal ball to next year, Moonves noted that there’s more to come.

Congratulating NBC on its record-breaking airing of the Super Bowl this year, Moonves added, “it certainly won’t hurt our sales for next year; $5-6 million dollars for a 30-second spot sounds pretty good to me.”

Moonves did concede, however, that the margins for “Thursday Night Football” could have been better, a fact that he blamed on the schedule.

“Just get better games!” Moonves said. “We had terrible games; of our eight games, five of them were ridiculous blowouts.”

As for political spending, Moonves pointed out that the 2016 presidential is growing near.

“And thank God, the rancor has already begun,” Moonves quipped.