Moonves Bullish on Network TV

LOS ANGELES After closing the books on a season heavily marred by the three-month-long writers strike, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves is bullish on network TV’s new year.

Moonves told investors at the Merrill Lynch Fall Preview conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., that the broadcast TV networks were going to be at “full strength” with the writers strike behind them, infused with a level of creative energy that never materialized last year.

“A lot of people watched the Olympics, a lot of people watched the Super Bowl,” Moonves said. “There’s no place to get 24 million people a week watching CSI. The CW was rumored to be dead. Last week they did pretty well with 90210. Gossip Girl is doing pretty well … Network is still the only game in town where you can aggregate a big audience.”

It’s certainly proving to be a strong season financially, with most of the $9 billion-plus committed for network prime-time advertising converted to orders for the fourth quarter.

In fact, Moonves said that despite the worsening economy, the national ad business hasn’t been affected yet. He noted that everyone seemed surprised about the strength of the upfront market in volume, CPMs and low cancellations.

“Including me,” he said.

Even before the TV season, political advertising has been strong. Moonves said that it began to “kick in, big time.”

“I think with the Republican vice presidential nominee, I think it’s going to be even mor exciting and more vicious, and we welcome that,” Moonves said.