Leslie Moonves: Changing TV World Means Programmers, Distributors Must Align Agendas

Leslie Les Moonves
Mark Davis/WireImage

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 directly to a consumer like we’re doing with CBS All Access. It also means we’re selling to Sony, which is then selling it to consumers. Is all content you receive online considered over the top? What does the spectrum situation mean for the future?

I would venture to say that if you ask people in the business, half the time they wouldn’t know what you’re talking about, and those who do would have very different definitions of all these things.

The game is changing. I need to speak to my interactive guys at least three times a week to understand the vocabulary. Even the word “television,” what does that mean right now? It’s a screen.

The merger of television and online is happening. It’s a time when there’s never been more excitement and more unease with what’s happening in the world.

Ironically, most of the issues between programmers and distributors are not economic. They’re about other issues. Our Time Warner Cable dispute (in summer 2013) was about the rights that were being requested. The fight is over technology and the ability to put your content wherever they want, and how that’s going to affect our other businesses.

Everybody wants to pursue their own vision of the future, and sometimes that’s contrary to what our view is. The job of media companies has become much more complex than it was in the days when the goal was to produce a show, put it on the air and sell it into syndication. People in those days weren’t watching shows online, or on-demand. Now in this world, it’s really about how you monetize all of your content, and sometimes there are different visions of how that will happen.