Leslie Moonves: Five CBS Freshman Shows Will Likely Be Renewed

Leslie Moonves - Getty - 2016
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The network head also called his business the "best positioned media company in the world" and predicted massive political advertising.

CBS CEO Leslie Moonves was optimistic about the renewal prospects for his network's first-year TV shows, saying five freshman shows would be renewed in remarks he made at the Deutsche Bank 2016 Media, Internet and Telecom Conference in Florida on Tuesday. 

"We have five new shows on this year," Moonves said. "Of those five, I believe all five of them will be renewed, and we own four of them." Those five are Life in Pieces, Code Black, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Supergirl and Limitless. The network has already canceled its Jane Lynch comedy Angel From Hell and has yet to launch its Rush Hour series.

He also didn't mince words Tuesday while promoting his company to the Wall Street analysts in attendance, calling CBS "the best positioned media company in the world."

The executive chairman said ad sales are "unbelievably strong" and, while digital advertising is growing, it's probably at the expense of print and cable TV and "certainly isn't affecting network advertising."

He called skinny bundles a "great idea" that "will become more and more a part of our culture" and all good for CBS since the network will be part of every meaningful bundle no matter how small it is.

"No matter what universe you live in, you have to have us.... You can't live without CBS," he said.

"I'm doing a lot of bragging here," he acknowledged.

"I know I sound like Pollyanna but, in my world, life is pretty good," Moonves said.

Concerning political advertising, Moonves said he should choose his words more carefully than he did a week ago at another Wall Street Conference where, referring to Donald Trump and the Republican primary race, he said: "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS."

This time around, he called the political climate "interesting" and he predicted massive, perhaps even record, ad spending this year. An analyst wondered whether a Trump nomination could actually lead to less spending, considering he uses social media so much and gets so much free time on cable TV, but Moonves said local politicians may need to buy more ads because "they may not be absolutely in sync with the national ticket."

The chief executive said Amazon.com, Hulu and Netflix are creating more and more original shows, causing the licensing of CBS shows to be a bit choppy nowadays, but internationally "the marketplace has never been as hot." Plus, licensing CBS shows to cable channels is as good a business as ever. 

"Basic cable, as much as they deny relying on off-network shows, rely on off-network shows," he said. "NCIS, Big Bang Theory, all doing extremely well on basic cable. I know they like to tout how great their originals are — look at the ratings. Look at how often The Big Bang Theory is on the Turner network. It's on about every 20 seconds."

He would not say how many people subscribe to CBS All Access or Showtime's OTT service, but he predicted the pair of products will add to the bottom line as early as next year, especially because an original Star Trek is coming to All Access in January. He said Amazon.com and Netflix both wanted the new Star Trek, but he figured he'd keep it at All Access because it's a "tiger in a bottle" and a "crown jewel."

He said that shortly after Star Trek, subscribers can expect about three or four more originals on All Access. 

He also said first-run syndication is a better business than many people think, with Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and others remaining cash cows after decades on the air. Entertainment Tonight, he said, will make $100 million in profit this year.