Les Moonves Predicts Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger Will Be Approved, Talks Disney-Dish Deal

2:25 PM PST 03/04/2014 by Paul Bond
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Les Moonves

Speaking at a Morgan Stanley conference in San Francisco, the CBS CEO said that the terms the Mouse House agreed to with the satellite provider were "not quite enough for us" and shared his thoughts about Netflix and Amazon.

CBS chief executive Les Moonves praised the Netflix series House of Cards as "brilliant" and said the network he runs has had "a number of discussions" with the streaming service about possibly teaming up for original content.

He also said Amazon, which has exclusive deals with CBS' Under the Dome and the network's upcoming Extant, provides a worthy streaming service. "We've learned not to bet against Jeff Bezos," Moonves said of the Amazon CEO.

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In a presentation at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in San Francisco, Moonves touched on multiple aspects of the television business, including his prediction that the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable will be approved. When it is, CBS will "meld" its retransmission contracts with the two cable companies together, Moonves said.

As CBS demands more and more in fees, Moonves said pay TV operators are strong enough to absorb the rising costs and that his goal, obviously, does not include driving them out of business. He echoed what he said last month on CNBC that Comcast understands rising retransmission fees better than others because it owns NBC.

Moonves reiterated his goal of $2 billion in retransmission fees by 2020 for CBS, up from zero "three or four years ago." He noted that Disney's ESPN gets about $6 per subscriber, and that's much more than CBS gets even though CBS has roughly 10 times the audience of ESPN, Moonves said.

The CEO added he's proud that CBS is only about 50 percent dependent on ad revenue, down from about 70 percent recently.

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The executive also said CBS is in a great position to make acquisitions because of money it is generating from spinning off its outdoor business. At the moment, though, he's happy to spend billions on buying back stock until the right acquisition comes along. He said CBS bought lots of stock at $34 a share while on Tuesday shares closed at $67.42.

Moonves also said the recently reached deal between Dish Network and Disney was a "win-win" for those companies, with Dish agreeing to rein in the ad-skipping ability of its Hopper DVR and Disney letting Dish put its shows on the Internet.

He suggested, though, that the terms Disney found agreeable were "not quite enough for us," and he said he looks forward to discussions with Dish chairman Charlie Ergen.

"It will be an interesting conversation, as they always are with Charlie," Moonves said.

CBS' deal with Dish expires at the end of the year.

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