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'I Love Lucy' still a cash cow for CBS

By Joe Flint Septmember 21, 2012

The last new episode of "I Love Lucy" was broadcast over 50 years ago, but the classic sitcom is still a cash cow for CBS.

Speaking at Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference in New York on Thursday, CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves said "I Love Lucy" is still delivering about $20 million in revenue. Reruns of the show still run on a regular basis on the cable channel TV Land.

During much of the interview, Moonves stressed the value of CBS' new and old content, particularly as new platforms such as Netflix and Amazon are spending heavily for product.

"The world is a beautiful place, we're going to get paid more and more and more," Moonves said.

That said, CBS is still more conservative than other programmers when it comes to selling content to online streaming services and Moonves does not plan on changing that strategy. For example, ABC parent Walt Disney Co. recently sold the first seasons of its dramas "Revenge," "Scandal" and "Once Upon a Time" to Netflix. CBS does not sell episodes of any series currently on its air to a streaming service out of fear that it could hurt potential rerun sales down the road.

"Syndication is still the big dog here versus the online stuff," Moonves explained. One key reason CBS takes that approach is that its dramas such as "NCIS" and "CSI" have sold very well in syndication in part because the shows are not serialized but rather self-contained. Serialized shows such as "Revenge" don't traditionally sell well in syndication but are popular on services such as Netflix where viewers can consume several episodes at once.

Heading into the fall season, Moonves said he expects CBS to again finish first in viewers. The network, which also has the Super Bowl this season, is also predicted to lead the way in the key 18-to-49 demographic. Despite that, CBS doesn't always get the same critical attention that other networks receive.

"We are the least-sexy network, we get less buzz," he said, quickly adding, "all we do is get more viewers and more money."

Moonves said he would be interested in acquiring a general entertainment cable channel to complement CBS' assets but didn't see any deals in the near future because the price tag would likely be too high.

"We’re not going to take our money and spend it in a silly manner," he said.

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