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Les Moonves 'Guardedly Optimistic' About NFL Joining CBS All Access

9 Sep, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

As over-the-top video becomes more prevalent, one of traditional TV broadcast’s competitive comebacks has been live sports. With the NFL — the nation’s most popular professional sports league — set to begin play Sept. 10, accessing games via subscription streaming remains elusive — but not to CBS CEO Les Moonves.

Speaking Sept. 9 at Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2015 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., Moonves said the NFL’s absence from CBS All Access — the upstart $5.99 monthly SVOD service — is a glaring omission. And he says CBS is working to fill the void.

“That’s the big thing that’s missing. Most of the other [network] stuff is there,” Moonves said.

The NFL currently streams the Super Bowl via licensed broadcast partners, with Verizon holding the game’s portable media rights. Yahoo! exclusively will live-stream the Oct. 25 game between the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars from London’s Wembley Stadium.

CBS, which holds broadcast rights to select Sunday games as well as Thursday Night Football, beginning Sept. 17, is hoping to soon add league games to All Access.

“As you can see, the NFL is doing more and more online. They are experimenting more and more. We are in constant conversation with them,” Moonves said. “They’re looking for an answer for their digital needs. And they’re exploring along with us. We are guardedly optimistic. We think that before too long we will have the NFL there, which [would be] a game changer.”

The CEO reiterated that CBS remains a brand consumers cannot live without, adding that 70% of network’s viewership still occurs via traditional broadcast. He said that as OTT video and streamlined channel bundles proliferate, CBS remains a key component.

Indeed, in response to media companies’ stock declines last month following ESPN’s second-quarter subscriber losses, Moonves cautioned that Wall Street not lump CBS in with traditional pay-TV channels.

“There aren’t many households that can live without us,” the executive said. “The fear out there [among pay-TV operators] should not make anybody afraid of CBS.”


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