Moonves upfront on issues

Sees lower volume in upfront ad market, CBS price increases

NEW YORK -- CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves said Tuesday that CBS expects to be paid higher rates in the upfront advertising market, but he predicted lower sales volume during this year's mating dance between networks and marketers.

He also expressed hope that Oprah Winfrey will continue her talk show, distributed by a CBS unit, beyond 2011.

"(Winfrey) hasn't said she is not coming back," Moonves reiterated, even though Winfrey is launching OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network this year in a joint venture between her Harpo Prods. and Discovery Communications. "We're hoping she stays. I know Discovery would like to get her full time, but they may not get her full time."

Speaking at the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecommunications Conference in Palm Beach, Fla., Moonves said he believes Winfrey realizes that she is one of the most influential people in the U.S. thanks to her show, citing her ability to stump for President Obama during his campaign.

He also acknowledged the pains of the recession, saying: "This marketplace beats the heck out of everybody. Some days you just want to knock your head against the wall."

Moonves predicted a tough upfront market for many broadcast networks but again was bullish on CBS.

"This is the year when more questions will be asked than ever before," he said, predicting, "There may be less volume (sold) this year."

He added, though, that, "We're never afraid to play the scatter game," and made clear that CBS expects price increases in the upfront and scatter markets.

Moonves also discussed his network's reduced pilot work, saying CBS is making six fewer than last year. CBS will need to add only as many as four new shows because of its solid schedule, which will leave the network atop the ratings for years to come, he said.

Moonves also said he does not expect broadcast-network consolidation in the near future.

"I don't see anyone looking to acquire right now," he said.

The same goes for potential cooperation between a major network's news division and Time Warner's CNN, which CBS and ABC have tried without success.

"I don't think it's in the cards," Moonves said.