Press Tour Live-Blog: CBS CEO Les Moonves

It’s been several years since we’ve had a Television Critics Association press tour session with Les Moonves, but with Nina Tassler unexpectedly called out of town CBS Corp’s president and CEO is taking the dais on Monday morning.  

8:29 a.m. Let’s go!

8:32 a.m. We’ll see if Les Moonves is too high above things to give us the answers we crave. He’ll have lots to say about CBS’ carriage dispute with Time-Warner Cable, but what will he have to say about racism on “Big Brother”? Precious little, other than by proxy. 

8:33 a.m. “I’m happy, as you know, to spend time with the press. Always have been,” Moonves cracks.

8:33 a.m. The big piece of news for the morning is the renewal of “Under the Dome,” with Stephen King writing the S.2 premiere.

8:34 a.m. CBS is having a good summer, following off a very good season in which the network won overall and among adults 18-49. Moonves is also pleased with the success of Showtime.

8:36 a.m. “I may not have all the involvement with the story arcs on different shows,” Moonves admits. “I know some of you from the old days. Some of you I’ve never seen before,” he notes.

8:36 a.m. The Time-Warner Cable dispute is our first question. Moonves feigns shock. “I really don’t want to negotiate in  public. That’s probably not the best way to do it,” Moonves says. “As we’ve said, we feel like we should be paid for our programming,” he says. “Conversations are happening between a lot of people today,” Moonves says, adding that he was on the phone within the past 15 minutes.

8:38 a.m. Here’s our first “Big Brother” question. “‘Big Brother’ obviously is a social experiment,” he says. “Clearly that’s what’s happening this year. I find some of the behavior absolutely appalling, personally,” he says. “Obviously a lot of it makes us uncomfortable,” he says, praising the way CBS has handled the controversy. “I think we handled it the way we should have,” he says. “I’m not going to tell you what goes on in my home,” Moonves says, asked about the conversations he has about the show with wife Julie Chen.

8:39 a.m. “It’s been a great new model and they’ve been a great partner,” Moonves of Amazon’s partnership on “Under the Dome.”

8:40 a.m. “We do a lot of pilots and the best go on the air and we felt that we had better choices than that pilot,” Moonves says frankly of “Beverly Hills Cop.”

8:40 a.m. Moonves admits that the “limited” model on “Hostages” is different and calls it “a new world.” “Every model we’re doing is somewhat different than it was before. At the bottom of it all is still quality television,” he says. Neither “Hostages” nor “Intelligence” has a clear deal yet with a Netflix or whatever. He emphasizes that “Intelligence” isn’t as 

8:41 a.m. Cote de Pablo question. “We offered Cote de Pablo a lot of money and then we offered her even more money. We really didn’t want to lose her,” he emphasizes. “Ultimately she decided she didn’t want to do the show. It was purely her decision,” he says. He calls her “a wonderful lady. “We feel like we exhausted every opportunity,” he claims.

8:43 a.m. “I think it’s going to be sustainable for a long time,” Moonves says, adding that CBS wouldn’t have aired “Hostages” five years ago and that he wouldn’t want five “Hostages.” He notes that “NCIS” and “CSI” and shows of that ilk are still the center of the CBS brand. “What you’re going to see is that we’re experimenting,” he says. “We are traditional in how we approach the business, but we still move. We’re still pretty nimble,” Moonves claims. He emphasizes tradition and profit, but reminds us that good shows are still key.

8:44 a.m. Does Moonves worry about viewer frustration on limited shows with people expecting closure of certain types? “We didn’t put it on just to have 15 episodes on. We put it on to have multiple seasons of it,” Moonves says of “Hostages.” Regarding the long-term future of “Under the Dome,” he says, “And why can’t they be under the dome for a long period of times? This is television?” He says, calling the show a soap opera at its heart.

8:46 a.m. “International has always been a part of the discussion,” Moonves says, claiming International becomes involved at the end of the development process. “International is a major, major part of our business,” he says that last year’s international revenue was $1.2 BILLION. Just a few years ago it was only $400,000 million. Opening markets in South America and Asia are keys. 

8:47 a.m. “Crazy Ones” question. The pilot has lots of McDonalds tie-in. Will the show be doing lots of tie-ins? He says that McDonalds didn’t receive any money and that it was always in David E. Kelley’s script, promising that there will be fictional products as well in the future on the show.

8:48 a.m. Big Picture Question. What’s the future? “I’ve always been a champion of network television. That was until six or seven years ago when Showtime came under me and then I became much more egalitarian,” Moonves says. He notes that over 20 million viewers watched the premiere of “Under the Dome” when you “look at the totality of it.” “The numbers can be as big. They’re just coming from different places,” he says, noting DVR numbers and VoD and all of that. “The model’s never been dead. It’s just evolving. It’s changing,” he says. Cable, however, is a very very different model. “Both are very successful. Both are very lucrative. And both are good for us,” he says.

8:51 a.m. “I heard a rumor that they were going to put him at 10 p.m. I think that’d be a really good idea,” Moonves says to a question about Leno leaving NBC. “I consider Letterman to be the best guy in late-night,” Moonves says. “He’s our guy and despite what people think, we don’t like drama at 11:30,” he says. “Dave is still making money for us. He still does the best show. We’re very happy to have him,” he says.

8:53 a.m. Would CBS like to own a piece of an Amazon or a Netflix? “We’ve never had an interest in doing that. I’m not saying it isn’t a very good business,” Moonves says.

8:53 a.m. Is there going to be more expansion for CBS Corp? The company is doing very well. “We love content,” he says. They just acquired TV Guide Network with Lionsgate. “It’s worked out great,” he says of that deal, saying that their ratings are up 300 percent recently. “Look, we’re always open to acquisitions, especially with content companies,” he says.

8:54 a.m. “No. I don’t necessarily agree with that. Every network has their own point of view on it,” Moonves says of Bob Greenblatt’s claim that “flat is the new up.”

8:55 a.m. Moonves isn’t *as* involved in casting reality shows, but he’s still very involved, the last word. Is it possible that the shows try too hard to have too many out-there personalities? “Obviously you don’t want wallflowers on reality shows. You’re going to take people who are interesting. Sometimes does that lead to controversy? Absolutely,” he says. He references the Rudy/Richard relationship on the first “Survivor” season.

8:57 a.m. What is the future for “Young and the Restless” and “Bold and the Beautiful”? “They’re doing well. They’re profitable,” he says. CBS has five shows in the daytime and profitability has gone up on all five of the shows. “We don’t think the form is dead. Obviously there’s a lot less than there used to me,” he says

8:57 a.m. Regarding Bob Greenblatt’s “bastard child” comment about networks not getting respect from Emmy voters. “It’s hard to put ‘The Good Wife’ up against ‘Game of Thrones,'” Moonves says, claiming that “GoT” costs three times as much and has more time to shoot.

8:59 a.m. Why move “Hawaii Five-0” to Fridays? “We didn’t have a lot of space for new 10 o’clock dramas,” Moonves says, reminding us that “Hawaii Five-0” plays a little old and that Friday has become more of a “total viewers” night than a “demo” night.

9 a.m. How is it possible that the lights are still on at The CW, Tim Goodman asks, after also asking how CBS is doing so darned well. Launching shows behind successful shows is a key to success. He admits that CBS won’t be on top for ever. He admits that The CW may be losing money, but says, “The CW is owned by two companies that produce the shows. The shows bring us more money than the losses do.” That’s pretty simple, I guess.

9:02 a.m. News is growing. “It takes a long time to turn around these battleships,” he says.

That’s all, folks…