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CBS chief Moonves upbeat about network's prospects

December 09, 2009|By Meg James

CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves is one happy man.

"Life is so much better for us than it was a year ago," he said Tuesday morning at the UBS media conference in New York. "Last year the advertising market was on the ropes, stations were getting socked, and CBS stock seemed to be in a free fall. But CBS' stock is back up and most of its core businesses are humming."

Moonves was characteristically upbeat and confident. "I'm tired of reading how network television is down," he said. "Network television still is pretty darn strong."

Moonves said that the advertising market was rebounding and that CBS expected to take in about $100 million more in the fourth quarter than it did a year earlier. The network, he said, has been pulling some of its own promotions out of prime-time and late-night shows to make way for paying customers. The Super Bowl is 90% sold out, and commercial spots are hitting the $3-million mark.

Moonves said he was happy that other television executives, including News Corp. President Chase Carey, "were on the field" lobbying for cable companies to pay broadcasters for the right to carry their signals. He was encouraged that even Comcast Corp. -- the nation's largest cable operator, which ordinarily would be loath to increase its payments to programmers -- seemed to support the trend toward "retransmission fees." Comcast would stand to benefit handsomely from such fees once it takes control of NBC Universal under a deal proposed last week with current owner General Electric Co.

Moonves said CBS expected to collect about $250 million in such payments in 2012.

"I hate to sound like a Pollyanna, but things are pretty darn good," he said.

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