CBS' Les Moonves Has A Very Good Broadcast TV Hammer; Unfortunately For Him, Every Problem Isn't A Nail

Categories: Broadcast TV

Written By

September 11th, 2009

moonves

I respect Les Moonves the team at CBS broadcast. They have a focused corporate strategy, they execute on it well, and they're always on message with the press. However, sometimes staying on that message causes them to publicly ignore the reality of the TV business, when you just know they understand differently.

Here's some quotes from a piece in Broadcasting & Cable today, where his statements need a bit of scrutiny:

CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves again defended the broadcast network model saying that success is simply about putting on the best shows. Speaking at the Bank of America-Merrill Lynch media conference September 10, he said: "People say network TV is cyclical; we've won eight of the last nine years. I really believe if you put on good shows they will come."

Indeed they have, in average viewership. But in the adults 18-49 viewer demo that broadcast TV advertisers care about, Fox has beaten them for many years running. And the fact that they's "won" is much less significant than the fact that in those 9 seasons their viewership has declined substantially.

Following a question about cable companies increasing their spending on programming, Moonves said: "Cable companies don't take away from us...They have two or three original shows, we have 19 hours on every week between news, reality comedy and dramas. It's sort of a different ball game."

He continued, "The top cable shows are three, four, five million people. That's not close to what American Idol does or even a third of what CSI is doing." He finished by saying the "network business is going to be fine."

By focusing his answer on individual cable companies and shows, he dodges the  fact that ad supported cable as a whole continues to take away broadcast networks share of primetime TV viewers. Broadcast's primetime share hit all time lows this summer, and almost certainly will hit an all time low once the final numbers for this season are in. Sure, no *individual* cable network or show does what CBS does, but collectively they're taking his audience away in a million little bites.

When asked about CBS Corp's future plans for its cash, Moonves declined to discuss the subject. "It's too early to say, there are a lot of opportunities to do things and I'm not going to state anything right now." On the subject of acquisitions he said there may be some things that might work within the company's six content areas. He described them as: news and tech, entertainment, sports, games, music and international. "We could see tuck in acquisitions that would fit in with those."

I wouldn't be surprised at all if CBS buys some cable networks, and neither would anyone else with half a brain in the TV business. Among the broadcast networks, CBS is the most limited in its network portfolio. I'm certain that Moonves would like to change that, but he's got to find the right property and the right price.

via Broadcasting & Cable.

 
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