Exclusive: With full power at CBS, CEO Moonves sees more aggressive move to digital

Sat Feb 6, 2016 7:05am EST
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By Jessica Toonkel

(Reuters) - CBS Corp (CBS.N: Quote) CEO Leslie Moonves, who was given the additional title of executive chairman this week, is planning more original content and looking at taking some of his network's shows off the air and putting them exclusively on its subscription-based CBS All Access service, to compete with the growing popularity of Netflix Inc (NFLX.O: Quote) and Hulu.

It is a bold but not sudden move for the traditional television executive running a network known for its older viewers, who approached the digital TV revolution gingerly but is now pushing his company to its forefront.

The network's push to ramp up its online All Access service - which offers its shows on PCs, tablets and smartphones for $5.99 a month - comes as media companies are rethinking their business models and their relationships with streaming video providers, treating them more like competitors than allies.

Advertising is still important for CBS - home of the Super Bowl this year - but the focus is shifting to new revenue streams.

"When I started this job 20 years ago, advertising was everything to this company," Moonves told Reuters in an interview in his Los Angeles office on Monday, as he prepared to travel to the San Francisco Bay Area for the big game. "Advertising will still remain important, but it's not nearly as important as some of these new ways of getting revenue, such as interactive."

Moonves is also considering putting shows on All Access from the CW Network, its joint venture with Time Warner Inc's (TWX.N: Quote) Warner Bros, which produced the offbeat hits "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" and "Jane the Virgin." Ultimately, Moonves said he wants the service to include content from its Showtime subsidiary, best known for "Homeland" and "Dexter," and possibly shows from other partners.

He would not say which CBS shows - which include hits such as "The Big Bang Theory" and "The Good Wife" - would be candidates for exclusive distribution on the All Access service, but suggested it would be original content and shows that have an avid fan base but not necessarily high ratings.

CBS already said last year that its new "Star Trek" series, scheduled for 2017, would premiere on the network then switch exclusively to All Access.   Continued...

Leslie Moonves, President and Chief Executive Officer of CBS Corporation, poses for a portrait in his office in Studio City, California February 1, 2016.  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni