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CBS chief Leslie Moonves downplays financial effect of Charlie Sheen drama

March 1, 2011 | 11:27 am

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While CBS misses the ratings from the loss of its top comedy "Two and a Half Men," CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves downplayed the financial effect at an investor conference Tuesday. The network, he said, was saving money on production costs.

"Short-term, financially, it is actually a gainer for us," Moonves said at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecommunications conference in San Francisco. "Doing eight less original episodes saves us a lot of money."

Related: A totally gnarly, bi-winning guide to Charlie Sheen's best quotes

CBS and Warner Bros., which owns the show, last week pulled the plug on "Two and a Half Men" for the remainder of the season after Sheen made derogatory comments about the show's co-creator Chuck Lorre, referring to him as "Haim Levine" and calling him a "clown."  

Moonves said he didn't know how the Sheen drama ultimately would end up, and he would not speculate whether there would be a ninth season next year of television's highest-rated comedy.

MOONVES The CBS chief took a shot at Sheen's whirlwind media tour during the last few days. On Monday, Sheen -- who has declared war on CBS and Warner Bros., was interviewed by NBC's "Today Show," ABC's "Good Morning America" and TMZ and spent an hour on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight." The media tour continues Tuesday with more on "Today," a special ABC "20/20" and Howard Stern's satellite radio show.

"He's been on the air a lot," Moonves mused. "I just wished he would have worked this hard to promote himself for an Emmy."

Moonves spent much of his time talking about the value of CBS content. He noted that even an ancient sitcom such as "I Love Lucy" still generates more than $10 million annually.

"Content is forever," Moonves said, which sounds like his take on CBS Chairman Sumner Redstone's mantra, "content is king."

Proving his point on the value of content was CBS's recent deal with Netflix. Last week, Netflix bought rights to CBS programming to offer online to its subscribers. While terms were not disclosed, people familiar with the two-year deal put its value at $200 million.

"This to us is found money," Moonves said of the agreement.

Netflix wanted current shows including "NCIS," but Moonves drew the line there. "They wanted the family jewels," he said, adding that he wants to make sure CBS is not damaging the rerun market before offering new shows on various online platforms.

"We're not going to upset the apple cart," he proclaimed.

Once again the CBS CEO indicated he is in no rush to do business with Hulu, the online video site co-owned by media giants News Corp., NBC Universal and Walt Disney Co. Moonves said he doesn't like joint-ventures with competitors, adding that from what he hears "some of the people currently in Hulu are not so happy they are in Hulu."

Related: Who would replace Charlie Sheen on 'Two and a Half Men'? The speculation begins

Charlie Sheen's lawyer comes out swinging against CBS, Warner Bros. and Chuck Lorre

Charlie Sheen: 'I'm tired of pretending like I'm not special'

-- Meg James and Joe Flint

Top photo: Charlie Sheen on ABC's "20/20" with Andrea Canning. Credit: Associated Press

Bottom photo: CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves. Credit: Justin Lane / EPA

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