Aug 2, 2018

CBS makes it clear it backs Moonves, dodges saga on earnings call

Les Moonves

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

CBS CEO and Chairman Les Moonves, who is accused of six incidents of sexual harassment, led CBS' second quarter earnings call Thursday, touting the success and growth of the broadcaster's streaming properties.

Why it matters: In letting Moonves lead the call and take questions from investors, CBS sent Wall Street a clear message: He's not going anywhere, for now.

"CBS’ strong second quarter puts us firmly on track to deliver the record full-year results we have forecast,” Moonves said in a statement ahead of the presentation.

The company warned at the top of the call that the discussion and questions from investors would be "limited to the quarterly results of the company."

  • Executives gave long-winded introductions, running the clock for nearly a half hour before opening up the call to investors.

Investors played along, asking only questions about business, revenue, programming, products and market competition. No one brought up the sexual harassment allegations against Moonves at all.

  • There were also no questions about CBS' ongoing legal fight for independence with its parent company, National Amusements Inc., and its Vice Chairwoman Shari Redstone.

Between the lines: In ignoring the elephant in the room, CBS management, Les Moonves, and investors sent a clear signal to the world that business will carry on as usual until there's more proof that Moonves crossed a line that CBS won't tolerate.

What's next: The Hollywood Reporter's Tatiana Siegel reports that Ronan Farrow, who originally broke the news in a New Yorker piece last week, has another Les Moonves story coming "in a week or two."

Go deeper: Axios Business Editor Dan Primack and I react to the stunning earnings call on Dan's Pro Rata podcast. Listen here.

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