CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves told CNBC on Wednesday that he’s very happy with the way things ended up with Time Warner Cable, but at the end of the day, it was important to take a stand for content. Fair enough, but the next thing he said was pretty compelling—especially coming from a TV-side icon such as himself: Advertising rates on network television and for TV show viewing online will soon be the same, “so we won’t care where you watch,” he told CNBC.
He predicted in the “Squawk Box” interview that ad parity could come in three to five years. “If you go on a college campus today, most of the kids are watching their shows online.”
That’s why CBS had pushed back so hard on Time Warner Cable over digital rights. “One of the things that we won,” he said, “is the ability to slice and dice our content all over the place. To put it on Netflix, to put it on Amazon, to let people binge-view.”
CBS also got TWC to pay higher network retransmission fees. “We are the No. 1 network…for 10 of the last 11 years,” Moonves said. “Don’t you think we should get fair value for that? It was important that we take a stand. This is about content and the future of content, and how content is sold and goes to our consumers.”
CBS and TWC had been at odds from 8/2 to 9/2, when talks broke down and CBS, Showtime and other CBS-owned channels were blacked out in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and other smaller markets.
As for rumors that Google, or even Netflix, might make a play for some NFL programming, Moonves acknowledged, “The NFL will obviously have some of their product online. Until it takes away from our audience, which it isn’t doing, we’re all in favor of it.”
RBR-TVBR observation: That’s what we like about Moonves. He stood his ground, won and didn’t crow about it. He’s practical and is seeing the future for what it is. Content is always king, and if CBS can sell ads across numerous online platforms for its premium content—or at least get paid for the content rights on those platforms—his company still makes money. Now, back to the Aereo battle…