Friday, December 12, 2008

According To Les Moonves, We Can Stop Worrying Now

Whew.

And here I thought we were in trouble. But, according to Leslie Moonves, Chief Executive of CBS, that’s not the case at all.

Speaking to a room full of investors at the UBS’ Annual Global Media & Communications Conference in New York this week, Mr. Moonves said, “I’m here to tell you the model ain’t broken. You can still make a lot of money in network television.”

It’s nice to hear someone being positive about television, whether that confidence has any hope of being sustained or not.

Mr. Moonves' upbeat mood seemed to stem from the fact that CBS’s ratings, including DVR, have basically been flat from a year ago. Flat, these days, is apparently good.

It seems that, at least according to CBS, flat is the new up.

The problem with DVR ratings is that the majority of people who watch in a time-shifted mode, skip through the advertising.

So while CBS’s program ratings may remain high, the same can’t be said for the commercial ratings that actually pay for the programming. And, as Jeff Zucker, head of NBC Universal, made blatantly clear earlier in the week, without advertising dollars, new programming can’t and won’t be created.

It’s this transparency of digital data that Mr. Moonves should be most concerned about, not ratings. Especially as all TV becomes digital in February of next year.

TV ratings and commercial viewership will soon have very little to do with one another. Both will be able to be measured independently.

I do agree with one thing Mr. Moonves said. “Television is still the best place to go for big tent advertising.”

No question.

But big tents don’t do well in a big wind.

And the tsunami of digital data that will soon be blowing through is the strongest gale the networks have had to face to date.

Anchor down, Mr. Moonves. Anchor down.

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