CBS’ Moonves Responds to NBC’s Leno Move

NEW YORK After a gloomy assessment by rival CEO Jeff Zucker and NBC’s plan to give five hours of weekly prime time to Jay Leno, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves said there was nothing wrong with network TV’s model.

After those comments were made at the UBS annual media conference two days ago by Zucker, Moonves said that CBS was having a good season in the ratings and would be doing better with advertising revenue if it weren’t for the bad economy.

“I’m here to tell you the model ain’t broke,” Moonves said at the UBS conference late Wednesday morning. “You can still make a lot of money in network television. We like 10 o’clock shows.”

Moonves’ comments drew a chuckle from the analysts and investors. He later brought up Leno and NBC directly, asking the analyst who was conducting the Q&A if he intended to ask about it. He did.

“For NBC, probably a very good move,” Moonves said. “For us, it wouldn’t be a good move. We are winning four of five nights at 10 p.m.”

And he didn’t seem worried by the possibility that Leno’s show could be a big hit.

“I would bet anyone who would like to bet that CSI: Miami will beat Jay by a lot,” Moonves said. “Remember: by a lot.”

He said that CBS’ dramas not only rate well but provide a good lead-in to the late local news. The network also has “about 12 different ways” to monetize that content after its first run, he added.

Plus, CBS is tops in viewers and 25-54 this season to date, and tied in adults 18-49, the best showing CBS has had in two decades.

“Certain people are having audience erosion, and certain people aren’t. We aren’t,” he said.

Moonves touted CBS’ strong schedule, where only one show has been canceled.