This column is part of Variety's Broken Hollywood feature. For more execs and their opinions on the state of Hollywood, click here. We have so many new words in our vocabulary these days. “Over the top” is a phrase spoken often. Cord-cutters, cord-nevers, broadband-only — these are words we didn’t mention two years ago; now they’re so much a part of our daily dialogue.But everybody’s definition of over the top is different. Over the top can mean CBS can sell...
Leslie Moonves has led CBS Corporation to new heights since taking the helm of the company in January 2006 following its separation from Viacom. On Moonves’ watch, CBS has capitalized on the hunger for high-end TV content from SVOD startups and international outlets.
Moonves was among the first broadcasters to pushed hard for retransmission consent fees from MVPDs that have transformed the company’s revenue base. CBS has honed its focus on content production businesses through spinoffs of its outdoor advertising unit and its radio stations. Moonves and his team have accelerated its investment in subscription-based businesses such as CBS All Access, an early direct-to-consumer streaming offering from a traditional media giant. The moves have weaned CBS of its heavy reliance on advertising, putting CBS ahead of the curve and in Wall Street’s good graces.
Moonves joined CBS as entertainment president in 1995 from Warner Bros. Television. He was fresh from delivering two of the biggest hits of the modern TV era, “Friends” and “ER,” to NBC. At CBS Moonves assembled a team of loyal and hard-charging executives who led CBS out of the ratings cellar with successful series including “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “CSI,” “Survivor,” “The King of Queens,” “Two and a Half Men,” and “NCIS.”
That turnaround quickly led Moonves a promotion to CEO of CBS Television in 1998. After CBS Corp. was acquired by Sumner Redstone’s Viacom in 2000, Moonves was eventually elevated to co-president and co-COO of Viacom. He went solo as CBS Corp. president-CEO when Redstone decided to split CBS and Viacom back into separate entities to boost the stock price of both firms. CBS was pitched to Wall Street as the slow-growth stock, but Moonves’ leadership energized CBS while Viacom was slow to adapt to a changing business landscape. Moonves replaced Redstone as chairman of CBS Corp. in 2016 as legal battles surounding Redstone’s mental competency and failing health forced the nanogenarian mogul to resign.
Moonves began his entertainment career as an actor. He segued into program development, working at 20th Century Fox and Lorimar Television in the 1980s. He advanced to president of Lorimar Television in 1989, and was named president of Warner Bros. Television in 1993 after the studio combined operations with Lorimar.