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CBS Chief Les Moonves on ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’ Netflix and All Access

CBS could have sold “Star Trek: Discovery” to a streaming service for a lot of money, but the media company decided to keep the latest installment in the ongoing adventures of the Starship Enterprise for itself. Now, the futuristic series anchors a lineup of original programming on CBS All Access, the company’s newly launched subscription on-demand service.

“We could have sold it to Netflix for a lot more money, but you can be darn sure All Access wouldn’t be doing as well,” CBS chief Les Moonves told an audience of Wall Street movers and shakers at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference on Tuesday. It was important to have original content, he added, noting that consumers were willing to pay for the service because “Star Trek” has “a built-in fanbase that was pretty emphatic.”

Other All Access programs include “The Good Wife” spinoff “The Good Fight” and a reboot of “The Twilight Zone” from “Get Out’s” Jordan Peele, a director that Moonves labeled “about as hot as you can get.”

With shows like “NCIS” and “Bull,” CBS caters to an older demographic. Streaming is changing that, said Moonves, noting that All Access is helping attract younger crowds and that the average age of viewers on the platform is about 20 years younger than the broadcast audience.

“That bodes well for the future,” said Moonves.

The veteran programmer did admit that CBS finds itself punching up now that Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and other tech-centric companies with capacious balance sheets are getting into the content business. They have the capacity to outbid CBS on any hot script or package that comes to market. It cuts both ways, however. Those companies are also buying programs the CBS creates and produces, enriching the company even as it forces Moonves to write bigger checks.

“The game keeps changing,” said Moonves, adding, “There’s always a new buyer. There’s always a new kind of way of doing business.”

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