SBD/Issue 37/Sports Media

Playing To Win: Les Moonves Discusses The Future Of Sports On CBS

Moonves Says CBS Sports
Is Now A Profitable Division

CBS Corp. President & CEO Les Moonves is "evolving his business constantly, citing specific examples like the need to remake the news business and an unwillingness to take losses on sports-rights packages like NCAA basketball," according to a Q&A with Melissa Grego of BROADCASTING & CABLE. Excerpts of the interview are below:

Q: Let’s talk about sports, speaking of Turner and Time Warner. Certainly it’s OK to have a loss leader in business, and sports in a lot of ways is that, and you made this terrific deal with them on NCAA.

Moonves: It’s not a loss leader anymore. When we had the NCAA tournament, it was. But right now the CBS Sports department is a profitable division because of that deal.

Q: Can you continue to get the big games, the big franchises with the escalating rights fees? Can you do it on your own, do you have to do these partnerships?

Moonves: Our big sports events are obviously the NFL number one, the NCAA basketball tournament number two. We obviously carry more golf than anybody else, we have the U.S. Open tennis tournament and we have college football. College football, we just signed a new deal for 14 years -- very lucrative. The NFL has been very smart I think in negotiating. By the same token, we are profitable with the NFL. We hope to continue that deal for a long, long time to come. The NCAA deal was a long-term deal where the rights escalated drastically going into this year. So we were looking at sizeable loss, which is why we reached out. We were able to make a terrific deal that is mutually beneficial with Turner, which sort of saves our bacon with the NCAA. So right now, all of our sports are in good shape. Look, we wish Tiger Woods will come back, we’ll make more money in golf. And I mean come back as a contender. That’s very helpful to us. We wish the U.S. Open wouldn’t rain out every year.

Q: Do you want the Olympics?

Moonves: Not at the prices that they seem to be going for. We are no longer going to bid for loss leaders. We don’t need to do that. We’re leading the world in a lot of different ways. We don’t need to invest in something that we’re going to lose money on just to help … the prestige of this network. I think we’re already there.

Q: But if you could do like what you did with NCAA, with Turner, would you?

Moonves: Certainly. It’s a great event (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 11/1 issue).

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