CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves says he is "open" to conversations with Dish Network's Charlie Ergen to resolve a dispute over the ad-skipping Hopper.
Speaking on Thursday at the Guggenheim Securities TMT Symposium in New York, Moonves acknowledged his company's legal dispute over the satcaster's DVR product, which TV broadcasters have likened to an unlicensed bootleg VOD service.
"When Dish negotiations come up next year, something will have to be resolved," he said. "We will not allow them to have a service that takes out commercials."
That might sound like a hard line, but Moonves quickly added that Ergen was an "extremely smart man and technologically savvy" and that Ergen's plan to rethink the delivery of advertisements would be worth listening to. "We are very flexible," said Moonves. "If there is a way to do something, we are open to it."
Moonves was much tougher on Aereo, another company that is giving TV broadcasters fits. The CBS honcho expressed confidence that TV networks would ultimately prevail in litigation with the digital TV company, but said there were "other things" that could be done to end Aereo's ability to capture over-the-air TV signals. (Some broadcasters have raised the possibility of becoming pay-only cable channels in the event that Aereo won at the U.S. Supreme Court.)
At the Guggenheim Symposium, Moonves said the company was in a strong position overall, highlighting how it has moved from deriving 70 percent of revenues from advertising to just 50 percent.
"We are a lot less cyclical," he said. "It used to be when we were 70 percent whenever there was some aggravation from Washington, our stock would go down."
CBS has boosted income from licensing its shows to digital outlets like Netflix and has made advances in collecting more retransmission fees. Referencing a high-profile fight with Time Warner Cable this summer, he said he was satisfied that CBS was now being compensated fairly and said there wouldn't be any repercussions when the company next negotiates over rights to subsidiary Showtime. He added that having the top-rated network on television and having a pay-channel in Showtime making gains on HBO meant that MPVDs would be paying up.
"The future looks good for us in any kind of universe," he said.
At the industry conference, Moonves also took the opportunity to pat himself on the back. Asked to discuss his legacy, he said that he had taken a company that was in last place when he joined in 1995 to one that is tops.
"People underestimated us," he said. "They said, 'What an old, tired company that is, how are they going to survive?' Number one, they didn't know me very well. I think we have changed the perception of the company. At the end of the day, we went from being an old media company to one considered ahead of the curve."