CBS Boss Les Moonves Predicts Stephen Colbert’s Viral Video Success: ‘Letterman Basically Wasn’t Into It’

President and CEO is “extremely pleased” with Showtime’s OTT reception, “guardedly optimistic” about NFL coming to All Access

Last Updated: September 9, 2015 @ 4:59 PM

Less than 24 hours after he played a key role in Stephen Colbert‘s “Late Show” debut, CBS CEO Les Moonves spoke highly of his new star at Wednesday’s 2015 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference.

The corporation’s president is very happy about lowering the average age from David Letterman‘s vacated version of the 11:35 p.m. talker — and positively thrilled about the monetary opportunities of producing viral videos.

“Letterman basically wasn’t into it, he wasn’t aggressive in it,” Moonves said of what he called the “easily liftable” moments, which Colbert’s competitors Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel have made a killing doing.

“Late-night is very profitable,” Moonves added of the segment in general — so it’s a good thing that CBS actually owns the new “Late Show.” This past sales season, the ad sales marketplace rose 15 percent, thanks in large part to anticipation of Colbert’s broadcast network arrival.

With his plug-heavy premiere performance — just ask Sabra hummus and Oreo cookies — and strong Nielsen numbers, Moonves commented: “Colbert booked a ton of money last night … [the show] could become a significant profit center.”

The average age of a Letterman “Late Show” viewer was 60, while over on the younger-skewing Comedy Central, “The Colbert Report” reached an average viewer of 37.

Moonves also said he’s doing well with Showtime’s over-the-top offering, private results that the executive claimed to be “extremely pleased” about.

He was a touch more guarded hailing CBS All Access, however. For one, there’s the glaring ommission of no live NFL programming, one of the network’s crown jewels. However, Moonves is “guardedly optimistic” of the digitally expanding league eventually joining that platform, he said.

Speaking of coveted pro football properties, Moonves declared that his network is “almost guaranteed to do better” with this season’s “Thursday Night Football” results versus last year’s somewhat uninspiring victories. After all, each game he had in 2014 seemed like a blowout by halftime, discouraging viewers to stick around. Moonves wishes the NFL would grant CBS the exclusive rights for five more years right now, but Roger Goodell and the boys are in no rush to lock up the first game of every week longterm just yet. Either way, CBS has Super Bowl 50, which essentially already assures America’s most-watched network an outright ratings win this fall season.

In the spirit of competition, Moonves also threw in a “TNF” related jab at the rest of the network players, saying of the ongoing bids and negotiations, looking at the other networks’ schedules, “They probably need it more than we do.”

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