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CEO Moonves Taking Second Look at Hulu

1 May, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves has made no secret his dislike of licensing content to ad-supported online streaming sites such as Hulu, questioning the business model as counterproductive to more lucrative incremental revenue channels such as subscription video-on-demand (including Hulu Plus) and TV syndication, among others.

With Hulu, which is co-owned by The Walt Disney Co., NBC Universal and News Corp., considering mandating subscriber authentication for access to its repurposed (non-SVOD) platform, Moonves is taking a second look.

During a May 1 call with analysts to discuss CBS’ record first quarter, Moonves said he would take a new look at Hulu under an authentication business model.

“Right now, we are very pleased with our digital model without Hulu,” Moonves said. “We are doing very well with Netflix, Amazon and our CBS.com site, which we keep 100 cents on every dollar. When [user-authenticated Hulu] comes out, we, of course, will have a conversation with them. Right now we are very happy with our digital strategies.”

CBS currently licenses The CW programming to Hulu Plus.

Moonves said data from license deals with Netflix and Amazon Prime have been helpful determining what CBS programming people stream and what they don’t. He said the “Star Trek” franchise is watched by a “ton” of people.

The CEO said the feedback has been useful in monetizing content to digital platforms and determining what — if any — can be allocated elsewhere to lower margin channels.

“We have the right to extend our opportunity with Netflix and that will continue for many years at our option,” he said. “We are in active conversations with many of the other participants (Xfinity TV Streampix, FiOS TV, Intel, Coinstar/Verizon). We are literally talking with everyone that is out there. There are a lot of players circling the building. And we will make some of those deals over the next couple of months.”

Separately, AOL reportedly is in discussions with former parent Time Warner regarding 60-day streaming license agreements for the media company’s TV show pilots. Time Warner, along with CBS and Sony, is one of the largest producers of scripted TV programming with more than 20 programs airing in primetime.

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