CBS would join Apple's TV service, if price is right

CEO Les Moonves says his broadcast network would "probably" be part of Internet-delivered TV from Apple. The deciding factor? Cold hard cash.

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Joan E. Solsman
2 min read

CBS CEO Les Moonves said he's having an ongoing conversation with Apple about an Internet-delivered TV service from the computer maker. Asa Mathat for Re/code

CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves teased the possibility of a deal with Apple to use its programming for an online-based service -- provided the world's most valuable company pays up.

"Apple TV is trying to change the universe a bit," Moonves said, speaking at the tech-news industry's Code Conference at a resort near Los Angeles. Asked what it would take to make a deal with Apple, his answer was succinct: "money."

Television programmers like CBS are warming to the Web as a place to offer their best content as consumers' habits shift to include more Internet viewing, which means you just need an online connection, rather than a cable TV subscription or bunny ears to access many of your favorite shows and movies. But the shift comes at the expense of traditional pay-TV packages, which are integral streams of revenue for programmers and why the content companies haven't rushed in to the online world.

The shift in mood comes as services like Netflix and those with live television purely online -- such as Dish Network's Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and an expected offering from Apple -- emerge as attractive options, while creating a new source of licensing fees for TV networks.

Moonves said on Wednesday that he's in an ongoing conversation with Apple, having met last week with Eddy Cue, Apple senior vice president of Internet software and services. "In any one of those bundles, we will be a part of it," he said.

(Disclosure: CBS is the parent company of CNET.)

Moonves said CBS' own purely online TV service, CBS All Access, was seeing "terrific" numbers, without specifying how many people have subscribed to product that lets people watch its broadcast network live and view a catalog of past programming on demand for a $6.99 monthly subscription.

He also said he held no grudge against Twitter app Periscope and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo after he declared the app the real winner of the boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. CBS' Showtime joined forces with its rival HBO to telecast the fight at top-dollar pay-per-view rates, but many people watched bits of the bout illicitly via Periscope.

"Dick is a decent guy, and he wrote me...and said it wasn't the intent of Periscope" to be a vehicle for piracy, Moonves said.