Leslie Moonves Says Its Early Days for Figuring Out Whether CBS Should Merge With Viacom

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
CBS CEO Leslie Moonves

"We're looking at it — we'll see what happens," the CBS CEO said.

It's been several weeks since CBS and Viacom said they were seriously considering recombining, but the process is still in the early stages, Leslie Moonves told Wall Street analysts on Monday.

The CEO of CBS said committees, lawyers and bankers are still doing their things, and added: "We're looking at it — we'll see what happens."

Moonves also reiterated that CBS is fine as is and he doubts it would ever grow to the size of a Walt Disney, even in an era of media consolidation.

"There is nothing we want, there is nothing we lack," he told Wall Street analysts at the UBS 44th Annual Global Media and Communications Conference in New York.

Moonves also said that less-than-stellar ratings for NFL games earlier this season is the fault of Peyton Manning (retired), Tom Brady (suspended for the first four games) and Donald Trump (because too many people preferred his presidential campaign to football).

But ratings have come back, and he predicted by the end of the year the overall ratings for NFL games will be "down a couple of points ... not a big deal."

CBS All Access, the streaming channel, recently struck a deal with the NFL, and when an analyst asked how that arrangement came about, Moonves quipped: "They're very nice to us because we give them over a billion dollars a year."

With the NFL on board and Star Trek: Discovery coming in six months, All Access should reach its goal of 4 million subs by 2020, Moonves said.

He also said that the show is basically free for All Access, since Netflix covered the entire cost of producing the show when it licensed it for streaming in foreign markets.

"Netflix, to us, is truly a friend," Moonves said.

Because of Netflix and other streamers, the marketplace for TV content is "truly phenomenal," Moonves said, adding they already license to a dozen services and he presumes CBS will also strike a deal with DirecTV Now, which launched last month with 80 live channels for $35 a month. While there was much discussion surrounding the launch without CBS, DirecTV maintained discussions were ongoing.

"I'm assuming we'll be able to make a deal with them," Moonves said, hinting that it was simply a matter of negotiating a proper fee.

Moonves also suggested that CBS is close to a deal that will bring CBS to YouTube's upcoming streaming TV service.