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Eye spies few shifts in merger

Conglom exploring 'Net options

The pending merger of Viacom and CBS won’t make much of a difference to the average couch potato, Eye prexy and CEO Leslie Moonves said Wednesday.

While this week’s AOL-Time Warner merger has consumer watchdogs sounding alarm bells over the continued consolidation of mass media companies, Moonves insisted auds won’t see a radically transformed CBS primetime as a result of the Eye’s marriage to Viacom.

“I don’t think the viewer will see any change whatsoever,” Moonves told reporters gathered for the CBS portion of the winter 2000 Television Critics Assn. press tour. “Whether we own a show, whether Paramount (Network Television, a Viacom unit) owns a show, our score is in a big hit, regardless of who delivers it.”

Moonves cautioned, however, that the new relationship between CBS and Par is still in its infancy. “We have not sat down with our Paramount brethren … (to) talk about how we work together. We haven’t decided what that process will be.”

Reacting to the AOL-Time Warner deal, Moonves said that CBS, “like everybody else, (is) exploring interactivity, Internet, all sorts of possibilities … Anybody that plays by the same old rules is going to be left standing at the gate.”

Getting in jabs

In a generally calm session with journos, Moonves — appearing onstage with several other CBS execs — made little news yet still managed to take a few potshots at rival NBC.

Reacting to this week’s departure of NBC movies and minis topper Lindy DeKoven, Moonves suggested she left because of the upcoming megamini “The 10th Kingdom,” which — thanks to a blizzard of advance negative buzz — is shaping up to be the “Howard the Duck” of miniseries.

“Garth (Ancier, prexy of NBC Entertainment), by his own admission … said that ‘The 10th Kingdom’ is a dog,” Moonves said. “If I had 10 hours coming on in February that I thought wasn’t very good, I guess maybe I would get rid of the executive early so I could blame them for it.”

Moonves and CBS Entertainment prexy Nancy Tellem also took on the surging gameshow trend, which the Eye dove into with its quickie quizzer “Winning Lines.”

While admitting he is “jealous” of ABC’s success with “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” he said he wouldn’t be surprised if the net’s reliance on the genre came back to haunt it. “God, I hope so,” he quipped.

Tellem also took a jab at the Alphabet: “In my opinion, they don’t have a schedule other than ‘Millionaire,’ and maybe ‘NYPD Blue’ and ‘The Practice’ … That network is going to turn into the gameshow network, the way they’re scheduling it right now.”

Logo move defended

On other issues, Moonves defended CBS News for its decision to digitally obscure the NBC Peacock logo during the web’s coverage of New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square. The logo is plastered on an Astrovision giant screen.

“I don’t think signage in Times Square affected a news story,” he said. After earlier saying CBS would always obscure a Peacock logo, he amended that promise: “If somebody used an NBC logo to commit a murder, we wouldn’t cut it out,” he cracked.

Moonves also confirmed that CBS has decided to alter the opening scene of Sunday’s preem of “City of Angels,” heavily editing a scene in which a hospital chief of staff dances with a mop and takes a photo with a corpse. “We wanted to start it off on our best possible foot and, as a result, we cut that quite a bit,” he said.

“Angels” exec producer Steven Bochco agreed to and supervised the editing.

Elsewhere during the session:

  • CBS News prexy Andrew Heyward refused to say whether “CBS Evening News” exec producer Al Ortiz would be replaced. “The ‘Evening News’ ratings are a concern … but we don’t have any announcement to make today.”

  • Moonves said a deal with the NAACP would be announced soon, but that it would not exceed the scope of NBC’s pact with the group.

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