Given that he was speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom conference in tech-obsessed San Francisco, it is hardly surprising that CBS Corporation CEO Les Moonves heard from one attendee who wanted to know why CBS didn’t cash out of old media businesses like radio and outdoor because of the “disruptive” challenges they face from new technologies. Moonves was having none of it.
“There are the same amount of people listening to terrestrial radio today as 10 years ago – it hasn’t gone down one iota with satellite radio or whatever. We have been able to put our radio online. It’s become very successful, as I mentioned. It’s working hand-in-hand with out Interactive Group and Last.FM. It’s become very successful. The radio sales guys are not only selling their air time, they’re selling the online time as well, so it’s proven to be a big boon. I think what’s happened is you don’t eliminate those businesses, you move them into the future. I think that’s what’s happened with every single one of our content businesses – is just learn hou to use it and use it properly so…it’s not the same game as it was, but in certain instances iit is. Radio still generates a huge amoun t of cash for us. You know, and cash is a very good thing. I don’t care what business you’re in. So we believe in it. If we could trim radio down a little bit, we would probably do that. We like being a major market radio player, but it’s still a very solid business. And as they work with the Interactive, it will be for the future as well,” Moonves said.
As it happened, that was followed immediately by another interesting question, which Moonves repeated for the audience to hear.
“Do I think Howard Stern is coming back to terrestrial [radio]? No. I do not. I don’t think Mel is going to let him go,” the CBS CEO said.
When Stern was last at CBS Radio, Moonves was President of CBS Television and Mel Karmazin was his boss as COO of Viacom, which then included all of what is now CBS Corporation. Karmazin is now CEO of Sirius XM, Stern’s employer for over four years.