Les Moonves calls CBS promotion a 'great honor'

Les Moonves on CBS's changing of the guard
Les Moonves on CBS's changing of the guard

Les Moonves wants people to be talking about CBS's Sunday telecast of Super Bowl 50, not about the board meeting that made him CBS Corporation's chairman this week.

But when he was asked about the promotion in an interview on Thursday, Moonves said it was "a great honor and a great privilege."

"I'm very pleased that Sumner Redstone handed the reins to me," Moonves told CNNMoney. He referenced his 20-year tenure with CBS and the company's storied past, including the legacy of the man who built CBS, Bill Paley, and said, "I'm very excited to be the chairman."

Moonves quickly pivoted to the Super Bowl, an event that CBS has invested a year's worth of preparation and promotion into. The company is charging a record $5 million per 30-second commercial spot and is using the game to flex its muscles across television and the Internet.

• Hear from Les Moonves about the Super Bowl and the future of TV on Sunday's "Reliable Sources," 11 a.m. ET on CNN.

He spoke with CNNMoney from San Francisco, the site of Sunday's game. His trip out West followed an unexpected meeting of the CBS board of directors on Wednesday, one day after Redstone sent a resignation letter to the board.

Redstone, 92, the controlling shareholder of both CBS and Viacom, has been in poor health. After he resigned as CBS's executive chairman, his daughter Shari nominated Moonves to take his place.

Related: Les Moonves replacing Sumner Redstone atop CBS

Moonves declined to comment on Redstone's health. When asked if they had spoken, Moonves said, "I've received correspondence from him."

He also had nothing to say about the succession plan at Viacom, where CEO Philippe Dauman was named chairman on Thursday over the objections of Shari Redstone.

Moonves and his lieutenants at CBS have sought to stay out of the gossipy fray as questions about Redstone's health and competence have intensified.

When asked why Redstone gave up the chairmanship, Moonves simply said, "It was time, and he decided to become chairman emeritus, and I'm very happy he had the faith in me."

Moonves, who is already the company's president and CEO, said his day-to-day duties will not change dramatically.

Related: Philippe Dauman succeeds Sumner Redstone in Viacom board battle

"Obviously there are more corporate responsibilities involved, but I've been doing some of them already, so it's just adding more. But adding things that I enjoy doing," he said.

Looking ahead to Sunday's Super Bowl, Moonves said, "This weekend's a celebration for us, so I think being named chairman is just sort of the icing on the cake."

Moonves confirmed that CBS is charging $5 million "or more" for certain spots during the game.

"And it's worth it," he said. "There is nothing like the Super Bowl. It garners more attention than any single event in America, any single event in the world, so advertisers realize they get a lot of bang for their buck."

He avoided making any predictions about the ratings for the game -- last year NBC averaged almost 115 million viewers -- but he said, "We expect to do really well."

Kickoff time is 6:30 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.


CNNMoney Sponsors