×

CEO Les Moonves: CBS may not be able to stay out of the media deal frenzy much longer

  • CBS chief Les Moonves is positioning the network as the underdog versus "monstrous companies."
  • CBS may eventually have to do "partnerships with other content companies and distribution companies," Moonves says.
  • But in the meantime, he believes the network can take advantage of its smaller size.

Against the backdrop of sweeping consolidation in the media industry, CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves says he is positioning the network as the underdog against "monstrous companies," including Comcast, Disney, as well as online powerhouses Netflix and Amazon.

Moonves spoke with Julia Boorstin at CNBC's Net/Net event on Thursday evening as word was leaking out that Comcast and Verizon were sniffing around the same assets of Twenty-First Century Fox that Disney was said to be in talks to buy. Fox appears to be considering the sale of most of the entertainment company, leaving behind news and sports.

"Disney is six times as big as we are. Comcast is six times as big as we are," said Moonves, making a David and Goliath argument that CBS may be diminutive but nimble. "Netflix's market cap is huge. Now Amazon, the number one company in the world, is producing content. We are sort of like an old-fashioned production company, we are a small guy."

"It's a jump ball we're never going to win. We have to continue to develop our own projects ourselves … like we did with 'Star Trek' on our over-the-top service," he said. "That's how we're going to compete."

"Star Trek: Discovery" is available to stream on CBS All Access, the network's television service delivered over the internet.

Moonves views online competitors more as frenemies. "We still do a lot of business with Netflix. We still produce original content for Netflix and virtually everyone who is our competitor is also our friend."

However, Moonves did acknowledge that CBS might need to fortify its position. "Eventually are we going to have to do partnerships with other content companies and distribution companies? The answer is probably, 'yes.'"

Despite all the deal talk, AT&T and the government are drawing battle lines over the telecom giant's proposed $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. Last week, CNBC reported the Justice Department could sue to block the takeover unless AT&T agrees to sell its DirecTV division or Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting, which owns CNN.

"It's sort of a contradictory situation we're in right now. I was pretty surprised. I've been surprised a lot in the past few weeks that the Department of Justice objected to this deal," Moonves said. "It didn't seem like something they would do, but God only knows what the reasons are for stopping that."

But Moonves said there's one thing he's sure of in this current deal-making environment: "Content assets are incredibly valuable."

— Disclosure: Comcast owns CNBC parent NBCUniversal.

Morning Squawk: CNBC's before the bell news roundup

Sign up to get Morning Squawk each weekday

Get this delivered to your inbox, and more info about about our products and service. Privacy Policy.
Please enter a valid email address