New technology may be the focus of the Consumer Electronics Show, but CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves argued on-stage today that tech may not be changing his business as much as you might think.
“At the end of the day, you still have to tell good stories,” he said during an interview with MediaLink’s Michael Kassan. Moonves contrasted that approach with a presentation from a rival network that focused entirely on the tech and “how they would sell it out there.” Moonves’ conclusion: “The reason for that is their content was crap.”
That said, CBS is moving into new modes of distribution with its subscription streaming service CBS All Access. Moonves credited “our interactive guys” (including CBS Interactive CEO Jim Lanzone) for coming to him 18 months ago and saying they wanted to make the network’s programs available over the top (i.e., not through a cable provider).
Moonves’ initial response was supposedly to provide “12 reasons why it was a bad idea,” but over time his team kept bringing it up, and he decided it was worthwhile to reach the country’s 10 million broadband-only homes.
“I don’t care where you watch our shows — just watch them,” he said. Moonves made a similar comment when discussing Nielsen’s rating system: “We don’t care where you watch it or when you watch it — we just want it to get counted and we want to get paid appropriately.”
After all, Moonves noted that CBS is “more than 50 percent advertising based. And with time-shifted viewing, he argued that overnight ratings are now “virtually useless,” and that CBS has to “be more patient.”
“Our information is now coming from so many different places over a much longer period of time,” he added. “The idea of success or failure is very different.”
Kassan pointed out that reaching viewers directly could also give CBS leverage with the cable operators (the company had an extended dispute with Time Warner back in 2013). While Moonves didn’t exactly disagree, he said that wasn’t what motivated the company.
“The real reason for going over the top is not to be able to circumvent MVPDs, it really isn’t,” he said. “It’s to make our content available to people who are using mobile.”