Leslie Moonves Nixes Purchasing CBS Corp.

Les Moonves CBS
David McNew/Getty Images

So much for Leslie Moonves purchasing the company he calls home.

During an appearance Wednesday at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., the CBS Corp. CEO poured cold water on the oft-speculated possibility that he would lead an investor group to acquire the Eye.

“The board of directors will decide the fate of this company,” he said in a Q&A session at the event. “I would like to buy CBS. I’m not going to.”

Speculation about the future of CBS Corp. and Viacom has been rampant during the past year because of the declining health of 92-year-old CBS and Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, who has controlling stakes in both media congloms through his National Amusements holding company.

Moonves had reportedly explored his options earlier this year with financiers for purchasing some or all of National Amusements’ preferred shares in CBS Corp. But on Wednesday, Moonves refuted that speculation and once again downplayed the possibility of CBS and Viacom merging after Redstone’s death.

“They don’t want to be reunited with us, and we don’t want to be reunited with them,” Moonves said of the Viacom merger rumors. The two companies were joined together when Redstone bought CBS Corp. in 2000, but were split up again in 2006.

Mergers were on the CBS chief’s mind as well when asked about how his company would be affected by the consolidation of distribution giants including Charter-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV. “I don’t see the content companies needing to combine,” said Moonves.

In other CBS news, Moonves indicated ongoing talks with Apple content chief Eddy Cue about joining a new TV service that would reportedly bring a smaller bundle of channels to iOs-powered devices. He characterized the likelihood of CBS getting involved as probable but didn’t offer specifics on what the product, which has yet to be officially confirmed by Apple, will be.

“Apple will offer a more select group of channels for a lower price” was all Moonves would say of the unnamed service. When asked what it would take for CBS to be a part of the service, Moonves simply replied, “Money.”

Moonves also talked about Twitter-owned livestreaming app Periscope, which drew controversy last month for being a source of piracy at the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao pay-per-view boxing match jointly held by HBO and Showtime, the latter of which CBS Corp. owns.

Moonves described an exchange with Twitter CEO Dick Costolo in the wake of the event that made clear to him that Periscope’s “intent” was not to encourage copyright infringement. Costolo drew criticism for a tweet he sent from his personal account later that night in which he described Periscope as a “winner,” though his reps later clarified that he was not referring to the pirated content.