Moonves Says He Intends to Charge Cable, Satellite for CBS Signal

Sep 14, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Viacom President and co-Chief Operating Officer Leslie Moonves repeated Wednesday that he intends to charge cable, satellite and telephone companies a fee to carry programming from CBS, indicating that the rate he might want would be on par with what distributors pay to carry the USA Network.

Speaking at a Merrill Lynch investor conference in Pasadena, Calif., Mr. Moonves, said he considered it “one of the great injustices for many years that we never got paid for our signals,” and that if distributors “want the NFL, ‘Survivor,’ ‘CSI’ and “David Letterman,’ you are going to have to pay [for the CBS signal] what you pay USA.”

Mr. Moonves, who for months has indicated he will start seeking compensation for the CBS signal once the current carriage agreements expire in four to five years, said he has already begun conversations with the telephone companies about paying for the CBS signal. He said that such conversations were more difficult to have with CBS’s being part of the larger Viacom family, which also includes MTV Networks.

However, with Viacom gearing up to split its cable and broadcast assets into two separate companies by early next year, Mr. Moonves said his group would be free to begin seeking compensation from content distributors.

In addition to the regular CBS signal, Mr. Moonves said, he also expects to be paid for video-on-demand content as well as for digital signals, such as a channel he called CBS 2, which he said would launch in the fall of 2006 and be an extension of the CBS brand, with news, sports and local weather and traffic updates.

Mr. Moonves also said that recent events at the Big 3 networks’ evening news programs have provided opportunities “to really improve the way we do things.” Noting that the average age of network newscasts is 60, Mr. Moonves said he is committed to changing the “CBS Evening News” into something “more user-friendly” and skews younger.

“We’ve not come up with a great solution [yet] and have sent them back to the drawing board,” he said, adding new changes should be revealed in the “next few months.”

Jay Sherman