Cable and Satellite

CBS CEO Moonves: No war with Diller over Aereo

CBS CEO Leslie Moonves may be one of the fiercest opponents of Aereo, but that hasn't caused him to feud with his friend Barry Diller, a key backer of the video-streaming start-up.

"Barry and I decided a year and a half ago not to talk about Aereo," Moonves told CNBC on Wednesday evening in Sun Valley, Idaho, site of Allen & Company's annual conference. "We had lunch six weeks ago and it didn't come up."

Moonves spoke just as Aereo took a case involving major media companies back to a lower court after losing in the Supreme Court last month. CBS and others in the case have contended that Aereo effectively steals their content by picking up their signals and selling them as streaming video over the Internet. Aereo has suspended its service since the Supreme Court decision.

Read MoreAereo ruling won't mean Big Bang for CBS

Barry Diller and Les Moonves at the 2014 Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley.
Getty Images

As recently as May, Moonves described Aereo as "theft, pure and simple." CBS has the most at stake among major media companies given the importance of its eponymous broadcast network, which has reigned number one by viewers for most of the last decade.

Diller, who is chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp., is also in Sun Valley attending the conference. On Thursday morning, he told CNBC's Kayla Tausche that "this is a decision that the Supreme Court rendered which said that Aereo was 'like' a cable company....we're an investor in it—absolutely."

Aereo's new play
Aereo's new play

The court ruled on June 25 that Aereo violated copyright law through its service, which assigns a small antenna to each subscriber and keeps them in separate warehouses. Typically, cable and satellite companies offer broadcast channels but pay handsome fees to CBS and others for the right to do so. Analysts at BofA Merrill Lynch said in a note Thursday that Aereo appears to be attempting to force the case back to the high court so it can find a way of paying some smaller fees for content.

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Moonves also weighed in on another hot issue this week: potential media mergers. Two large distribution deals await approval from U.S. antitrust regulators: Comcast's acquisition of Time Warner Cable and AT&T's purchase of DirecTV. Comcast owns CNBC parent NBCUniversal. Given the additional clout cable companies gain by expanding, many TV industry players have asked whether it makes sense for content owners to gain scale of their own.

"I don't think there needs to be consolidation" among content companies, Moonves said. "We are planning as if both of these deals go through," he said, adding that CBS had invested heavily in sports content that cable and satellite companies will want to have.

Other executives including Discovery Communciations CEO David Zaslav have taken a different point of view, arguing that there will be even more cable consolidation and that content companies will follow suit.

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—By CNBC's John Jannarone