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CBS CEO Says Aereo TV is 'Theft Pure and Simple'

8 May, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

CBS CEO Les Moonves

Despite characterizing media attention of ongoing litigation between broadcasters and Aereo TV as overblown, CBS CEO Les Moonves didn’t mince words regarding the subscription streaming TV service.

The legal case, in which broadcasters such as CBS allege Aereo TV is stealing content and illegally retransmitting to connected devices via digital antennae, is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

“Aereo [TV] is theft pure and simple,” Moonves told analysts during the May 8 fiscal call.

When asked what CBS would do should the Supreme Court rule in favor of Aereo, Moonves said the company has several options, including selling content directly to customers via pay-TV, or rolling out its own digital antenna service or over-the-top video platform.

But the executive said such speculation is premature and unwarranted.

“We have confidence the [Supreme Court) will find Aereo illegal. I am not losing any sleep over Aereo,” Moonves said.

Meanwhile, CBS attributed much of its $457 million in pre-tax first-quarter (ended March 31) entertainment profit from a 6% increase in digital licenses both abroad and domestically.

Indeed, CBS plans to launch 90 hours of original programming, including four dramas, this summer — much of it licensed to subscription streaming services such as Amazon Prime Instant Video.

The second season of “Under the Dome” launches next month, followed in July by sci-fi series “Extant,” starring Halle Berry.

“Both of the shows will be profitable from day 1,” Moonves said.

The executive reiterated that the SVOD market continues to mushroom overseas as Netflix, Amazon and others seek to expand operations. As a result, CBS is seeking to own more of it content going forward so it can benefit licensing it in ancillary markets.

“SVOD has become part of the original conversation. Now we consider how quickly do we want to sell to SVOD? That is something that was unheard of five years ago,” Moonves said.

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