CBS says staying out of iTunes pricing battle

NEW YORK (Reuters) - CBS Corp is happy with its deal with iTunes and won’t join a battle against Apple Inc over the pricing of television shows on the online store, CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves said on Tuesday.

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs introduces full-length, high resolution movie downloads from the iTunes website to the crowd at an Apple media event at the Yerba Buena Center of the Arts theater in San Francisco, California, September 12, 2006. CBS is happy with its deal with iTunes and won't join a battle against Apple over the pricing of television shows on the online store, CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Dino Vournas

NBC Universal decided last month not to renew a deal to sell downloads of its television shows on Apple’s iTunes because NBC wanted more flexibility in offering different packages and pricing.

News Corp Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin last week echoed NBC Universal’s call for more flexible pricing.

“We’re sort of staying out of the battle,” Moonves told a Merrill Lynch investor conference. “We like our relationship with iTunes.”

Moonves said iTunes is not a significant source of revenue. “We look at iTunes as much as a promotional vehicle for our shows as a financial vehicle,” he said.

NBC Universal, which is controlled by General Electric Co, is the top supplier of digital video to the iTunes music store.

NBC and News Corp plan to debut an advertising online-video joint venture called Hulu in October. Moonves said that CBS was invited to be a third partner, but declined.

“I don’t like joint ventures per se,” he said. “I love Peter Chernin and Jeff Zucker. They’re both very smart, but I don’t like to consult with them on what to do with my programming.”

Moonves said CBS is looking at Internet sites “every single day of the week ... We look at thousands of them to see where we should invest, what we should buy.”

As for large acquisitions, Moonves said the company would consider a buy if the price is right. “We’re very cautious, very conservative about what we do,” he said. “But as I said, we have a lot of dry powder.”

CBS has no plans to spin off its outdoor advertising unit, Moonves said in response to a question at the conference.

“We like the outdoor business a great deal,” he said. “I don’t foresee us in the near term or the long term spinning it out.”

Moonves added that the company plans to continue its dividend, and said it is possible that it will continue to rise and that CBS would hold more share buybacks.

CBS shares rose 60 cents, or 1.95 percent, to $31.39 (16 pounds)on the New York Stock Exchange.