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Moonves Vows to Pursue Retrans Fees for CBS

Jun 6, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Viacom co-President and co-Chief Operating Officer Leslie Moonves on Monday repeated his commitment to pursue retransmission fees from cable operators, saying that although it might take three to five years before he can start charging cable to carry the CBS and UPN signals, it’s a goal he intends to achieve.

Mr. Moonves also indicated that Viacom Plus, the company’s cross-platform advertising operation, will likely continue to operate even if the media giant follows through with a proposal to split itself into two separate companies.

Speaking at Deutsche Bank’s media conference in New York, Mr. Moonves repeated what he said several weeks ago about exploring the possibility of charging cable and satellite operators a fee to carry broadcast signals from CBS and UPN.

“It’s a new day and I want to get paid for my programming,” Mr. Moonves said.

“We’re tired of not getting paid, or not getting paid properly for the CBS programming,” he said. “We’ve invested a lot of money in the [National Football League], David Letterman and ‘CSI.'”

The idea of charging retransmission fees comes as Viacom’s board considers a plan to split up the media giant into two separate companies — one that would be headed by Mr. Moonves and include the broadcast networks and radio group Infinity Broadcasting, and another that would consist of Viacom’s cable assets and film studio and would be managed by Mr. Moonves’ counterpart, Tom Freston.

CBS played a pivotal role in negotiations between multiple system operators and Viacom’s MTV Networks unit, and Mr. Moonves believes that in three to five years, when many carriage agreements begin expiring, the broadcast networks could be well positioned to start collecting retransmission fees.

Mr. Moonves said Viacom board members are expected to meet later this month to make a decision on whether to split up the company into two separate entities, with the working names of the new companies to be CBS Co. and MTV Co. Viacom Chairman and CEO Sumner Redstone has said he intends to announce the company’s plans on the breakup by the end of June.

In answering an oft-asked question about whether a breakup of Viacom would lead to missed opportunities to take advantage of synergies that exist if CBS and MTV are under a single umbrella, Mr. Moonves said that many of the synergies of a combined company have already been realized.

Indeed, Mr. Moonves said that these days he and Mr. Freston speak “very infrequently” about ways the two executives’ groups can work together.

“There’s very little the two sides do together,” he said.

However, Mr. Moonves said Monday that Viacom Plus is likely to continue, as is the company’s marketing council, which explores ways to promote various Viacom products across the company’s collection of television, radio, publishing and outdoor advertising products.