CES: Leslie Moonves Talks CBS Standalone Service, Why Content Is Still King

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Leslie Moonves

The CBS CEO says "wireless is useless if you're hitless"

CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves says he doesn't care how people watch his shows, as long as they're watching. That was a big theme of Moonves' talk at International CES in Las Vegas on Wednesday, which also touched on CBS' new over-the-top service and ratings measurements. 

"As the defender of network television, I think it's extremely important that we are at the forefront of technology," he said. 

Moonves was speaking at a Q&A with MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan. The advisory firm sponsors the Brand Matters program at CES, which is geared toward the marketing industry. 

Read more CBS' Leslie Moonves: Wall Street Hero, "Pushover" at Home, Future Ambassador? 

When Kassan asked Moonves about the move toward C7 ratings and longer listening periods, the media titan said it's most important to him that CBS' viewers are measured no matter how and when they are watching. "What’s happening with DVRs and online, we just want it to be counted and get paid appropriately," he said. "Whenever you watch our ads we should get paid." 

Moonves also addressed CBS All Access, the network's over-the-top option, noting that he was hesitant when CBS digital executives first approached him about the monthly subscription service, but came to realize over time that it was important to make content available everywhere. "Being the old-school guy, I gave them about 12 reasons why this was a bad idea," he said. "But they kept batting them down." 

Although Moonves recognizes that technological innovation is important, he also cautions that quality content should remain the first priority. "We developed a phrase at CBS: 'Wireless is useless if you're hitless,' " he said, prompting laughs in the audience. "You still have to start with good content." 

The conversation then turned to increased ease of data collection and how it can be used in content production. But he also said data will never be able to replace human decisions. "The data is helpful in knowing whom to reach, but it can't control what you put on," he said. "It still takes the programmers, the writers, the producers and the actors. ... It does take a form of magic to make a Homeland or a Big Bang Theory or a Game of Thrones. These are spectacular creations that data could never produce."

Following the Q&A with Moonves, a panel of top executives from Fox Networks Group, Google, the Walt Disney Co., Conde Nast and McDonalds were on deck for a panel discussion on how technology is changing how businesses interact with consumers.