Interim CBS CEO Avoids Viacom Merger Talk, Says CBS All Access to Expand Globally

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"We want to pause and make sure we're getting the right value for our content. But if someone can maximize our content better, we'll certainly take their money," Joe Ianniello said of deciding whether to hold back content for its streaming service or license it to local international platforms.

Joe Ianniello, who was named acting CEO of CBS after the departure of Leslie Moonves, did not discuss the prospect of a reunion with Viacom during an appearance at the Deutsche Bank 2018 Media, Internet and Telecom Conference on Tuesday.

Ianniello, who is also CBS president, instead focused on CBS continuing to expand in the direct-to-consumer, streaming space via CBS All Access, the subscription video-on-demand outlet, beyond Canada and Australia. "We will be rolling these out in the coming months in other markets," Ianniello told investors, without specifying where the next push for the digital platform will be.

He also talked about reaching an optimal balance in securing licensing revenue for CBS' TV content in the international market, while also keeping some series exclusive to CBS All Access offerings as they continue to roll out worldwide. Many CBS TV shows that stream on CBS All Access in the U.S. already air on international platforms via licensing deals.

"We want to pause and make sure we're getting the right value for our content. But if someone can maximize our content better, we'll certainly take their money," Ianniello said of deciding whether to hold back content for CBS All Access, or license it to local platforms.

Keeping its options open contrasts with rival media giants like WarnerMedia and Walt Disney which, as they launch their own streaming platforms to go direct-to-consumer, are increasingly holding back content from others, including Netflix.

Ianniello never directly addressed the ongoing corporate drama at his network, which includes a search for a permanent CEO. Wall Street has assumed that CBS and Viacom will merge in the post-Moonves era, as both companies are controlled by Sumner and Shari Redstone, who managed to end Moonves' grip on CBS.

Reuniting CBS and Viacom is seen as necessary amid industry consolidation that has seen Walt Disney purchase most of 21st Century Fox and AT&T buy Time Warner to form WarnerMedia. Ianniello did discuss possible mergers and acquisitions, however, adding that they had to be additive to CBS' goal of becoming a premium global content company.

"We want to talk to everybody. We want to be in the deal flow on any acquisition out there," he insisted. On the programming front, Ianniello reiterated that CBS will want to renew the rights to the NFL Super Bowl championship game the next time they come up, whatever competition CBS will face.

And he insisted CBS would not take a ratings hit as it replaced The Big Bang Theory with its spinoff Young Sheldon. "We saw this coming. It's in its 12th season. Hopefully we will go from The Big Bang Theory to Young Sheldon. We've been grooming that series," Ianniello said.

The acting CBS boss also touted the current CBS leadership team, as he gave shout-outs to chief creative officer David Nevins and CBS News head Susan Zirinsky. “I think we have the leadership team to take us across the next three to five years," Ianniello said.