Les Moonves

‘No algorithm’ for great content

IF YOU want to learn about the future of entertainment, you could do much worse than listen to one of its veterans — Les Moonves, CBS president and CEO. Speaking to MediaLink chairman and CEO Michael Kassan in the opening session of the first-ever Lions Entertainment, the head of the pioneering $14bn broadcaster and content creator provided an insightful assessment into how his company is making more money, despite the ongoing impact of digital disruption.

At the heart of Moonves’ strategy is an absolute belief in the importance of content — and his own ability to identify and support a great television show. “We have a lot of data and it would be stupid not to use it,” he said. “But there is no algorithm for content. Don’t give me a number and say this show should be on the air. I don’t believe it. When you do that, my skillset is gone.”


This is not to say that Moonves is resistant to change — he just needs to be convinced it is change for the better. Speaking about CBS’ new premium paid-for OTT service, CBS All Access, which costs $5.99 a month, he said: “When [my team] first suggested it to me, I was Dr No. I gave them 10 reasons why it wasn’t a good idea. But they came back with reasons why I was wrong. So now we have an extraordinary product that will showcase original series, including Star Trek.”

One of biggest reasons why Moonves would have been wary of launching an SVOD-style service is the reaction of advertisers, which account for 50% of the company’s revenues. However, he said it is crucial for everyone to embrace change: “It behoves us to work hand in hand with advertisers. But they have to change, as we have had to change. My sense is that advertisers realise this is a great new world and are adapting for all of the available platforms.”


Moonves told Lions Entertainment delegates that the TV business is adapting well to the new media landscape. He also used his session to take a swipe at the ailing movie business: “We’re kicking the film industry’s butts big time. People have been underestimating TV for decades, but we are still thriving.”



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