CBS President Talks Shop

Leslie Moonves spends the day at the School of Communications talking about the media and its future.

By Rebekah Monson and Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (November 04, 2013) — When Leslie Moonves arrived at CBS in 1995 as president of entertainment, the struggling network lagged behind its competition in the all-important television ratings. But that quickly changed, as Moonves catapulted the network from worst to first, launching hit shows such as “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Survivor,” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” His savvy moves, which earned him a promotion, have helped turn CBS into a multimedia juggernaut with successful radio, premium cable, and interactive divisions.

On November 4 at the University of Miami's School of Communication, Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Television since 1998, shared with students the philosophy and acumen that have earned him a reputation as a network titan.

During his visit he participated in two forums—one covering the future of broadcast network television with School of Communication Vice Dean Paul Driscoll, the other delving into the entrepreneurial spirit at CBS. He met with student media later in the day.

While speaking at Shoma Hall in the school’s International Building, Moonves told students to “get in the door and show people what you can do,” urging them to learn as much as possible from their opportunities and to think of themselves as entrepreneurs.

Click on the image above to view pictures of Moonves' visit.

“It involves risk-taking,” he said. “It’s much better to strike out with a good idea than fail playing the same old game.”

Amid the challenges of an increasingly fractured media landscape, Moonves also sees opportunities for new audiences and growth. “We are slicing and dicing our shows and distributing them on different platforms,” he said. “How do you distribute it? How do you get as many people to see them and still get paid?”

Social media and the advent of the two-screen viewing experience offers media companies like CBS increased engagement with their audiences, he said. The company is also working on additional streaming platforms, international distribution, and a more robust online news platform that may include partnerships with major interactive companies.

For students interested in news and media careers, Moonves advised a diverse skillset with an emphasis on storytelling. “Storytelling is still very important,” he said. “You have to know new technology, and self reporting is very important. Before we used to have a six-man crew in Syria, and now it is one brave reporter in Syria.”

Moonves also discussed his own learning experiences. When a low-level executive first pitched him on Survivor, Moonves thought it was a terrible idea. The executive was so passionate and persistent that the show eventually got scheduled for a summer release and became a huge hit, much to his surprise.

Moonves said his willingness to learn, his ability to successfully pick people to work with, and his love for entertainment and communication have all contributed to his storied career. “I’ve got a cool job,” he said. “…The key is not a routine, but that I’m passionate about all these areas that I work in.”

Some of Moonves' other comments from the forums included:

- Most students watch television online. People are watching wherever and whenever they want.

- Eventually all content will be live-streamed. The relationship between television and social media is becoming more important.

- One concern about the news is how to attract young people – they don’t read newspapers.

- Shows are being distributed on different platforms. One of the challenges is getting paid for the product as more and more people get to view the show.

- Diversity is an issue, especially during prime-time shows, while a better job has been done in news, sports and reality shows.

Prior to the event, Gregory Shepherd, dean of the School of Communication, said Moonves’ visit “provides a tremendous opportunity for our students, faculty, and staff to hear and learn from one of the giants of the television industry.”

Rebekah Monson can be reached at 305-284-8048. Barbara Gutierrez can be reached at 305-284-3205.

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CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, seated next to School of Communication Vice Dean Paul Driscoll, talks with students about the future of the media.

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