CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves last year received $57.7 million in total compensation, a sum that included nearly $8 million in a special cash payment for his “leadership in connection with the creation of premium content.” He’s worth every penny. While at least one rival was throwing his hands in the air and bemoaning the death of the broadcast model, Moonves continued to do what he does best: make tentpole TV. All but two of CBS’ prime-time series draw in excess of 10 million viewers each week–by comparison, NBC can say the same about just one (Sunday Night Football)–and since the season began, CBS boasts nine of the top 20 shows in the 18-49 demo. Even broadcast’s biggest booster isn’t content to rest on his nightly deliveries. CBS’ international syndication business generates north of $1 billion annually, and Moonves has done a masterful job of licensing library content to third-party streaming services. In July, Amazon cut a $100 million check for the rights to mothballed CBS Studios series such as Cheers and Frasier. Should the ad market fall stagnant, such licensing deals will keep CBS flush–as will the steady stream of retransmission consent fees and reverse compensation from affiliates. As a showman, Moonves would probably rather talk up what’s on the screen. But it’s his business acumen that justifies the adulation.
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