CBS CEO Leslie Moonves: "Football Is Still the Best Thing on Television"

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Les Moonves

On Wednesday, the network exec didn't address the controversy set off when CBS canceled airing a Rihanna song that had been scheduled before kickoff

CBS CEO Leslie Moonves on Wednesday alluded to problems with the NFL — presumably accusations of violence perpetrated by star players Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice — but said the network's ratings for Thursday Night Football were "above expectations." He even suggested that controversy might have increased viewership for the game, which saw the Baltimore Ravens defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"Obviously, Baltimore against Pittsburgh is a very good matchup. Obviously, Baltimore and their team were a little bit in the news, you may have heard, other than the football game, so I'm sure that may have attracted a little bit more attention. Possibly in the wrong way, but it did attract attention," he said. "And the number was very good. The game wasn't very good. The number could have been even higher if we had a close game, but people started tuning out in the last half hour, 45 minutes."

The CEO, speaking at the Bank of America 2014 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference in Beverly Hills, didn't address the controversy set off when CBS canceled airing a song by Rihanna that had been scheduled before kickoff.

"This week we have a lesser matchup with Atlanta and Tampa Bay, so the numbers will be down, and we expect the other networks to point that out," he said. "The advertising is terrific … football is still the best thing on television … the ratings are phenomenal, the advertising rates still go up, there are still certain advertisers that have to have it … we love having those games on Thursday night."

He continued: "For those of you who know the movie business, every Tuesday there is some producer who has a big movie opening on Friday, and they're desperate because the movie's not tracking well, so they pick up the phone and call the heads of the studio and say, 'You need to promote more. We need more money spent.' And where are they going to spend it, where's the biggest mass? Thursday Night Football, and we're going to be able to get pretty good dollars for that."

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