CBS chief digging Leno’s move to primetime

CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves doesn’t sound particularly worried about NBC’s decision to put Jay Leno in the 10:00 pm timeslot five nights a week. In fact, he sounds a bit giddy about the whole thing.

The way Moonves figures it, CBS could bank millions in additional revenue from the switch. Moonves described his thinking on a call with investors, using what he acknowledged were “ballpark” figures to make his point.  Essentially he said that even if Leno does well the show simply will not attract the kind of advertising dollars of, say, “CSI”. That means CBS will take an even bigger share of the advertising money in primetime.

“Assume we were the No. 1 at 10:00 last year and we took in 38 percent of the revenue available at 10:00 on broadcast television. Remember, there are only three networks [Ed: Fox doesn't run competing programming at that hour] And assuming Jay Leno does great, does what he’s doing now. Suddenly, that 38 percent will turn into 45 percent, maybe 47 percent. So you take 10 percent more revenue in that time period. And 10 percent of an arguably many hundreds of millions of dollars pie is a lot of money.

That’s why we wish Jay well. We think this is a big plus for us and ABC in terms of revenue.”

The revenue would be welcome. CBS television’s operating income dropped 54 percent in the most recent quarter; ABC’s dropped 38 percent.

Redstone swears by fish, vodka…and married women

Media mogul Sumner Redstone credits fish, Grey Goose vodka and plain hard work for giving him “the health of a 20-year-old.” 

The octogenarian head of CBS Corp and Viacom Inc told CNN talk show host Larry King at the Milken Institute Global Conference that he made a “miracle recovery” from prostate cancer due to his “highly disciplined” consumption of “every antioxidant known to man” even when he doesn’t feel like it.

“My doctor says that he’s seen a lot of men slow down the aging process but I am the only man who has reversed it,” Redstone crowed at the hour-long interview that packed two conference rooms at the Milken Institute Global Conference on Wednesday in Beverly Hills.

March Madness: The great CBS experiment

Get your brackets filled out, hand over a few bucks to the office pool manager, and settle in for some March Madness. The NCAA basketball tournament starts today.

Besides terrific basketball, the next two weeks will showcase what is a great paring of old and new media by CBS. Give the folks over at CBS credit, they’ve done a tip-top job of bringing the games to both your television set and your computer.

(In 1999, CBS acquired the rights to 11 years of broadcasting the tournament, paying about $6 billion. It also has the exclusive online rights.)

Les Moonves: No price cuts here!

CBS’s stock may be in the tank (now under $4 a share),  but Chief Executive Les Moonves is still pretty darn optimistic. That may be because his network — home to the “CSI” franchise, “Survivor,” and “The Mentalist” — is the only one of the big four that’s been pulling in more prime-time viewers. For months it has been crushing ABC, NBC, and Fox in the ratings game.

What’s the payoff? CBS won’t have to make wholesale changes to its 2009-10 schedule and should be able to hang on to more advertising dollars than its rivals,  Moonves told an audience at the Deutsche bank Deutsche Bank Annual Media & Telecommunications Conference.

Moonves figures CBS will need to shoot six fewer pilots than it did a year ago, and bring only 2 or 3 new shows to air next season. He also says that with known hits — like “The Mentalist” — and few question marks about its schedule the network should fare well in this spring’s upfront market.

Redstone debt crunch could be easing, despite income loss

Here’s the latest on Sumner Redstone: On CBS’s earnings call he reiterated that negotiations with lenders regarding National Amusements’ debt situation were moving forward.

“We are making very good progress with our creditors, and as I have also said before, we have not, since our original sale, sold a single share of CBS or Viacom, and our lenders are not urging us to do so,” he said.

He also told investors that the CBS dividend cut — they slashed it by 82 percent to 5 cents — wouldn’t mean a thing as far as National Amusements’ debt talks go (How the dividend cut will impact Redstone himself is another matter. Last year, he took home more than $80 million in dividend payments).

All eyes on CBS dividend

CBS reports its quarterly earnings later today and expectations are… well… low. That’s not surprising to anyone who has watched a parade of bad numbers coming out of the other big media companies this quarter. Viacom. Time Warner. Walt Disney. News Corp. There were few positive notes in any of them.

CBS isn’t likely to break that streak.

So the big questions on the minds of analysts and investors when it comes to CBS are 1). Will it take another big writedown after the $14 billion impairment charge it took last quarter and 2). Will it cut its dividend?

We explored the dividend issue in a piece last week, pointing out that CBS is facing a big debt payment, dwindling cash flow, and must contend with an awful advertising environment. It needs to conserve cash, and could have no option but to cut its dividend (some are calling for it to abandon the payment altogether).

More see pressure building on CBS dividend

CBS has made a big deal about its dividend. Just three months ago, Chief Executive Les Moonves made clear his commitment to the quarterly payout to shareholders, who, by the way, have seen the stock fall nearly 75 percent in the last 12 months. Yep, 75 percent.

“The dividend is front and center in our strategy to return value to our shareholders” Moonves said on a late October conference call.

Lately, though, doubts about CBS’s ability to keep up the dividend appear to be spreading (to be fair, a number on Wall Street have questioned the payouts for quite some time).  First, on Monday, Sanford Bernstein  analyst Michael Nathanson cut his rating to “underperform” and warned that CBS might have to “drastically” reduce the dividend.

CBS wants to talk about your money

The financial crisis might have sapped more than its share of 401(k)s, but it’s providing the news business with all sorts of programming ideas.

The latest is a new personal finance website from CBS Interactive., which officially goes live on Wednesday, will provide the following things, according to the press release:

    The site will translate the latest financial headlines and break down how they directly impacts the readers’ and their pocketbook. MoneyWatch will provide a bird’s eye view into how the latest financial news affects their salaries, mortgages, 401Ks, and their overall finical well-being. With the support of CBS, MoneyWatch experts will react quickly to translate the news on a broadcast level, from national and local TV and radio stations including CBS Early Show and local CBS news affiliates. Unlike other personal finance sites now available, MoneyWatch will have a life across multi-platforms, across the web, TV, and radio, and reach a massive audience. Led by Eric Schroenberg, former managing editor of Money Magazine, MoneyWatch will help people who feel responsible about their money and believe that making the right decisions about what they have and what they earn is profoundly important. If the crash taught us anything, it’s that the penalty for not knowing what to do with your money has never been higher. is spin-off from its sister site, BNET, one of the fastest growing business sites on the Web.

The announcement comes on the heels of Fox Business Network’s announcement that it will start a Saturday morning four-hour call-in program for folks worried about their money, and joins a host of other “what it means for you”-style sites dealing in personal finance, such as

Television ratings in deep freeze

Since we’re coming up on year’s end, it’s worth a quick review of the television season so far. It has stunk. There. That’s about all you need to know.

Don’t take our word for it, look at the weekly Nielsen numbers that came out yesterday. The lone exception is CBS, which continues to hold up relatively well in the face of all the challenges facing the TV market.

Here’s the Hollywood Reporter’s roundup:

Following its 12th consecutive weekly victory in total viewers, CBS became the first major broadcast network this season to move into positive year-to-year territory since premiere week.

Now this is Hollywood entertainment

The divisions are deepening out in Hollywood – and we’re not talking about the standoff between the Screen Actors Guild and major studios. No, we’re talking about Tom Hanks vs Mel Gibson, George Clooney vs Martin Sheen. Actor against actor, start against star. Good stuff.

To be fair, it’s not as though they are hurling rocks at one another. But there are divisions within the ranks of the SAG over whether to authorize a strike. In a petition yesterday, 130 actors — many A-listers — sought to have the union halt the strike authorization vote. The way they see it, the economy is so bad that a strike right now would be too devastating to the industry.

Perhaps they have a point. Hollywood, after all, is still recovering from the writers’ strike. TV ratings are way down, advertising dollars are drying up and consumers are keep a close watch on their budgets. It could be a terrible time for a strike (And we should note that a strike authorization vote is different than an actual strike).