Responding to tough earnings-call comments made by Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) chairman Charlie Ergen regarding ongoing retrans talks with his conglomerate, CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves let loose with some pointed remarks of his own on Monday.
"As I said to Charlie Ergen, 'Your people won't be very happy with the Denver Broncos not on the air Sunday,'" Moonves said, while speaking at the RBC Capital Markets 2104 Technology, Internet, Media and Telecommunications Conference in New York.
Dish, of course, is based in Englewood, Colo., and CBS' broadcast deal with the NFL gives it TV rights to the AFC, conference home of the satellite operator's local pro football team, the Broncos.
And NFL football, Moonves noted, "gives us a lot of clout."
He added, "There would be a lot heat for not having CBS programs on." Dish and CBS are said to be far apart on a renewal deal, with their current agreement about to expire. Last week, Ergen told investors that the launch of CBS' new OTT service, CBS All Access, makes the conglomerate's programming "less interesting to pay-TV operators."
Asked if CBS' demands for escalating retransmission rates were exacerbating the problem of out-of-control programming costs for pay-TV operators and customers, Moonves responded, "That number's getting up there."
Subscribers, he added, are "paying for a lot of channels that they don't want. … You shouldn't be paying the Karate Channel 15 cents a month when nobody's watching it. You should take the networks that people are watching and give them more money. That's how the system should work."
CBS' retrans demands, however, are not the problem, Moonves added. "Given that CBS is the number-one network with the most number of eyeballs for about the last decade, we deserve more retrans fees than some of the cable networks that don't get nearly [as many viewers as] we get."
Moonves also resisted the notion that CBS will be at a distinct negotiating disadvantage should the two big pay-TV megamergers gain federal approval.
"We still have a strong hand at the table, and we always will," he said.
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