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Moonves Shoots Down Viacom Merger Rumors, Again, at CBS Annual Meeting

One shareholder asked the Viacom question. Leslie Moonves talked up the pending launch of Showtime as a digital-only option. The four items on the agenda were passed by better than 97% margins, and the entirety of CBS’ 2015 annual shareholders meeting on Thursday morning was completed in just under 30 minutes.

“No company in better position to benefit from a dynamic shifting marketplace than CBS,” Moonves said during his state-of-the-company presentation. He emphasized the growing number of shows that CBS owns outright that are airing on the Eye, Showtime and CW — an important factor for the bottom line as content licensing becomes an increasingly important driver of earnings.

“In the last 12 months we have put more new owned shows on CBS, Showtime and CW than ever before. They will pay off for years to come,” he said.

Moonves talked up CBS’ expansion in the digital arena with the launch of CBS All Access and the CBSN news streaming service. Showtime’s over-the-top service is coming soon, which Moonves said would allow the pay cabler “to reach tens of millions of potential new subscribers,” but he didn’t elaborate on details.

The first of a handful of questions from the roughly three dozen shareholders in attendance came from a man who asked about the persistent rumors about CBS and Viacom reuniting in some fashion. The speculation has been fueled by the lingering uncertainty of what will happen following the death of Viacom and CBS controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone, who turns 92 next week.

Redstone did not attend the CBS meeting but was listening by telephone, Moonves said at the outset of the meeting, held at the Museum of Modern Art.

Moonves’ response was the same that he has consistently given during the past year when asked the question by Wall Streeters and reporters.

“We have no intention at this point in time or any time in the future to take over anybody,” Moonves said. “We are very satisfied with our assets and our performance. We don’t see anything like that” on the horizon, he said.

There was not a peep about executive compensation issues, a topic that has been a lightning rod for shareholder activists. In fact, shareholders overwhelmingly approved two compensation-related proposals on the agenda — one covering performance incentives for senior management and one covering stock awards for outside directors.

All 14 directors, including Moonves and Redstone, were re-elected to the CBS Corp. board.

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