CBS' Moonves: We may go off-air if Aereo prevails

In a statement that sounds a lot like sour grapes, CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS) President and CEO Les Moonves told investors at a Miami conference that if the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Aereo in its copyright case, the network might shut down linear TV operations and go completely over the top.

Les Moonves, CBS

Moonves

"If Aereo should work, if they should win, which we don't think will happen, we can go OTT with CBS," he said Tuesday at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet and Telecom Conference.

Moonves said a court decision in favor of Aereo, the OTT service that rents antennas to subscribers and delivers the signals to their residences via the Web, would be tantamount to the government giving permission for Aereo to "steal our signal" and that CBS would need to figure out some other way to get content to viewers and "still get paid for it."

It's not the first time Moonves has threatened to take CBS off the air over Aereo. He's vacillated between that threat and calling Aereo an "insignificant player" that will ultimately go away. However, the corporation actually deciding to drop linear broadcasting anytime in the near future looks pretty far-fetched.

"We're paying over a billion dollars for the NFL on Sunday. It's still profitable but it's must-see TV. Viewers can't live without that," he said during the presentation.

The broadcaster also shelled out $275 million for the rights to televise eight of 16 Thursday night NFL games this season, and it airs hugely popular series like "The Big Bang Theory" and "NCIS."

But an increased level of OTT participation isn't out of the picture. CBS recently expanded a licensing deal with Hulu Plus, and Moonves noted that subscription video on demand (SVOD) is part of a changing entertainment landscape.

"There are more and more places to put these shows," he said. "A few years ago there was no such thing as SVOD and now there is SVOD… When you're CBS and you have the number of outlets that we do … it's an advantage and a good package."

For more:
- Reuters has this story
- listen to the investor presentation

Related articles:
Hulu content acquisition spree continues
Media executives weigh in on Aereo, Netflix, Amazon
Aereo to get Supreme Court review

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