Moonves Says CBS Local Stations Worth More After Time Warner Battle

By Kevin Eck 

CBS president and CEO Les Moonves revealed what he sees as the silver lining coming out of his company’s long fight with Time Warner Cable over retransmission fees.

In a conference call during the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2013 Media, Communication & Entertainment Conference in Beverly Hills, Moonves was asked whether CBS would jump into the pool of groups buying and selling stations. “There are a few stations in the CBS affiliate group that we don’t think are particularly well run,” he said. “Those are the ones we look for as opportunities [to buy]. We say, if we took them in we could make them substantially better,” taking the GM’s of his owned stations off the hook when he made it clear he was talking about the stations CBS doesn’t own.

“By the same token, I guess, in some of our smaller markets,” said Moonves. “There might be a station or two, if the offer is right, that we would sell. But guess what?” he added. “The value of these stations over the last 12 months has gone up substantially and right now people know why.  They’re all saying, ‘Oh my God! Retrans is a serious amount of money.’ Stations, therefore are much more valuable than they ever were.”

Moonves also stopped short of giving the affiliates too much credit for CBS’ recent good fortune. “Look our relationship with our local affiliates is very important to us,” Moonves said. “They deserve a lot of the credit for the promotion and how they how they handle our programming, et cetera. At the end of the day, however, when they go in to get their retrans deals it is primarily because, you know, they have the NFL and “The Big Bang Theory” and they have “NCIS.” And we like to say, ‘Look. The network program contributes a great deal to their ability to get paid.’ And they are getting paid.” Moonves added, “We want our affiliate body to be strong. The good news is they’re making a lot of money and we will share in it. So the future for the affiliates is bright and for the network is bright.”