CBS CEO: Ad market strong going into 2011

Leslie Moonves sees no slowdown so far

NEW YORK -- Early advertising sales momentum for the opening quarter of 2011 remains strong, CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves said here Wednesday.

"We see nothing to slow it down" so far, he told the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference about the ad market that has done well all year.

While most in the TV industry have said it is too early to look into 2011, which some analysts have predicted could be more challenging, Moonves said he is even optimistic about next year's local ad momentum. The CBS local stations business could grow next year even though odd years traditionally are more challenging as they lack Olympics and political ad revenue.

Current TV ad prices are running 30% above upfront levels, Moonves told the Goldman crowd.
He reiterated that a return of auto ads has been a key driver of growth. And he predicted "a very strong" political ad selling season, particularly in California and New York.

Moonves Wednesday echoed comments from NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker that labor negotiations with SAG, WGA and DGA are looking to be less adversarial than a few years ago. "Things are in much better moderation," he said. "The town is still suffering from what happened back then. It wasn't good for anybody," he said about the writers' strike. Another work stoppage would be "a disaster," Moonves warned.

Asked about reverse retransmission payments from CBS-affiliated TV stations, he said CBS expects to get more money as the retrans consent payments that stations now collect grow.

Meanwhile, doing possible Showtime content deals with Netflix will depend on how the DVD per-mail pioneer keeps positioning itself in the streaming space. "As soon as we figure out what they are" - a new version of a cable operator or something else - CBS can think about doing business with Netflix, Moonves explained.