CBS' Leslie Moonves Touts Smaller Cable Bundles, Dismisses Acquisition Talk

Leslie Moonves - H 2014
AP Images

Leslie Moonves - H 2014

The CEO says the network "will be part of every bundle."

Shrinking TV bundles might have some TV executives on edge, but CBS CEO Leslie Moonves is a big fan of the trend.

"CBS will be part of every bundle," Moonves said Monday at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in San Francisco. "A smaller bundle is a very good thing."

Moonves was also fairly dismissive of the notion that CBS might be acquired anytime soon, even in an era of media consolidation. He said any potential suitor would have to pay "a very high price" for CBS given speculation that its shares are headed to $100 apiece in the next four years. 

The stock was up 3 percent to $60.79 in midday trading on Monday, giving the company a $30.2 billion market capitalization.

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He also said CBS, which already shed its billboard advertising business, isn't looking to sell off any more assets, even though observers have floated the notion of CBS getting away from book publishing and radio. Both, though, fit the conglomerate's mandate of being a content business.

"In terms of getting smaller, I don't think you'll see that from us," he said.

The CEO didn't bother to weigh in on the two big mergers trying to get regulatory approval now — Comcast's purchase of Time Warner Cable and AT&T's acquisition of DirecTV — because he said CBS isn't threatened much by either, even though prevailing wisdom suggests that the mergers would give those providers more bargaining power against the content providers.

"People can't live without CBS," he said. "We like the hand we're playing."

After contentious negotiations with Time Warner Cable and Dish Network, Moonves said "there really shouldn't be too much difficulty" striking new deals with DirecTV and Cablevision, both of which come up at year's end. He even mused that he hopes it is Time Warner Cable's behavior regarding CBS that lead to the company to having to sell itself.

Moonves said he also likes owning 27 TV stations, and said he'd buy more if regulatory rules were relaxed.

He also raved about Sunday and Thursday NFL games on CBS, and he already sees the price he'll get for commercials during Super Bowl 50: $5 million for 30 seconds, up from $4.5 million for Super Bowl XLIX. He even predicted that a Netflix or other streaming-media company might someday outbid CBS and the other broadcast networks so they, too, can jump into the business of live NFL games.

Moonves said CBS' business is very strong in part because the streaming services are hungry for content, so whether a show has 13 episodes or 300, "there's a deal to be done."