CBS CEO Leslie Moonves on Netflix: "We Don't Think They're Eating the World"

Leslie Moonves - Getty - 2016
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Moonves said Netflix's appetite for content has driven the price of the shows CBS is selling much higher.

While some industry insiders worry of Netflix becoming a monopoly, CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves said Tuesday he's thrilled with the success of the leader in streaming media.

"We're a big fan of Netflix," the exec said at an investor conference in New York. "We don't think they're eating the world."

Moonves said Netflix's appetite for content has driven the price of the shows CBS is selling much higher.

Meanwhile, CBS All Access and the Showtime digital service are thriving with 2 million subscribers between them even with the competition from Netflix. Moonves said Tuesday that the goal of 8 million between them by 2020 will be met and possibly exceeded.

"We surprised a lot of people," he said at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia 2016 gathering.

The new Star Trek: Discovery, which will go to CBS All Access, is already paid for due to Netflix buying the international rights, Moonves said.

He acknowledged, though, that Netflix has grown so large that it is eating up a lot of the available content while also creating its own, and that it has an advantage over CBS: It does not need to show a profit every quarter, as CBS does. 

"Netflix pays a lot, but they take everything off the table," he said.

"We actually have to take some of the profit we make and put it in the bank as opposed to investing it in original content," Moonves said. "Look, it's a great model, I don't knock it, I wish we could do that."

Twitter and Yahoo have limited streaming rights to NFL games, and Moonves hinted he'd like some rights for CBS All Access, too, and it should happen "sooner rather than later."

The CBS boss also lamented that Donald Trump, the GOP candidate for president, isn't spending as much on advertising as some had expected, but he said political advertising over issues and down-ticket candidates is very strong.

At the five TV stations that CBS owns in California, "the issues spending is tremendous," Moonves said.

"The economy is doing great, and we're doing great," he said when addressing the selling of advertising in general.

The CEO said international sales of programming, in particular, is growing at a fast clip.

"The price of this content is going up immensely," Moonves said.

He also praised the booming business of skinny bundles, since he considers CBS "must-have" content no matter how large or small cable bundles are.

"You have to have content that people really can't live without," he said.

There's been a lot of speculation that CBS would merge with Viacom, and while Moonves didn't address the prospect specifically, he was clear that CBS is only in the market for acquisitions if the price is right.

"Our balance sheet's in great shape, we love the assets we have, we love the company, we have the ability to do whatever we want," he said.

"As we look out to spinning off radio, we'll have more cash, some of which we'll return to our shareholders, some of which we'll have the ability to invest in things that we like," Moonves said.