In Depth

Moonves: NBC’s Leno Move Helps CBS

CBS CEO Les Moonves said that NBC’s decision to put Jay Leno on in primetime will help his company’s bottom line.

“We were the No. 1 network at 10 o’clock last year,” Mr. Moonves told analysts and investors during CBS’ quarterly earnings conference call Thursday.

He estimated that CBS took in 38% of the broadcast ad revenue available at 10 p.m., and that even if Leno does great for NBC, he expects CBS’ ad revenue share to jump to “45%, maybe 47%.”

“We don’t break out how much each time period is worth, but 10% of an arguably many-hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars pie is a lot of money,” Mr. Moonves said. “That’s why we wish Jay well. We think this is a big plus for us and ABC in terms of revenue.”

While NBC turns to a talk show format to lower its primetime costs, CBS said the Writers Guild of America strike spurred it to take steps to rein in how much it spends on programming.

“It caused us to re-look at how we were producing our shows and we’re doing every single one of them in a more economical way,” Mr. Moonves said. “There will not be a show on our schedule next year that won’t have a different cost structure than is currently on the books. I think all of the companies realized they didn’t need as many overall deals to get their product and here we are a year later, up in every single demographic and doing things in a much more productive way.”

CBS also expects to schedule more shows from its own studio.

Mr. Moonves said that while CBS “always puts on the best pilot we have,” pointing to “The Mentalist” from Warner Bros. as an example of a hit from an outside studio, owning a show and getting the syndication revenues as well as the advertising revenue is “a better business.”

Mr. Moonves also said he didn’t feel threatened by Hulu, which last week added video from Walt Disney Co. to its NBC Universal and News Corp. content online.

“We have a different strategy than some of our competitors,” he said. “We like the ability to control our own content, where and when it goes. We don’t like the idea of being exclusive to Hulu.”

Mr. Moonves said that some day, CBS video may appear on Hulu, or content from Hulu might appear on TV.com. But for now, “This gives us the freedom to place our content wherever we want as well as sell it ourselves, along with our other verticals, and so far it’s proving to be extremely successful.”

(Editor: Baumann)