CBS CEO Moonves says 'no active discussions' with Viacom

REUTERS - CBS Corp is not in “active discussions,” about recombining with Viacom Inc, CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves said on Thursday.

“We are never going to do something that is bad for CBS shareholders,” said Moonves, speaking at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference. He declined to elaborate.

There has been increasing speculation among media industry insiders that CBS and Viacom may recombine since Viacom’s controlling shareholder, Sumner Redstone, and his daughter, Shari Redstone, won the battle for control for Viacom, resulting in the departure of Viacom’s former CEO Philippe Dauman last month.

Viacom split from CBS in 2006. Through their privately held movie theater company, National Amusements Inc, the Redstones control 80 percent of the controlling shares of both CBS and Viacom.

And Shari Redstone, who is also on the board of both CBS and Viacom, has expressed interest in recombining the two companies, according to two people familiar with the situation. A spokesman for National Amusements declined to comment.

While Moonves dismissed the idea of active merger discussions with CBS, he did say the company is open to potential acquisitions if they make sense.

Specifically, CBS is interested in growing its CBS television studio programming, he said. “That would be a focus to get bigger,” Moonves said.

Moonves was optimistic about the growth of its streaming All Access platform, despite the launch delay of its much-anticipated Star Trek series from early next year to May.

“I would rather it be a few months late and great than early and not great,” he said.

Moonves was equally optimistic about striking a deal with the NFL to live stream football on All Access.

“We think a deal will happen in the not too distant future,” he said.