At the end of a wide-ranging question-and-answer session, prominent entertainment attorney Ken Ziffren asked the television titan to name his favorite television comedy.
"Modern Family," Moonves said.
The Emmy-winning sitcom, created by Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, has become a colossal hit for ABC. The show, now television's top-rated comedy, is produced by another rival, 20th Century Fox Television -- not CBS' production studio.
It would hardly be news if any other entertainment CEO said he liked a competitor's program, but this was Moonves. He has been CBS' most ardent cheerleader for more than 15 years, and he has changed the names of several business units in his corporate stable so they would be branded CBS.
Moonves immediately knew he would take flak.
"I'm going to get in big trouble with Chuck Lorre next week," Moonves said, referring to the prolific producer who has helped build CBS' comedy blocks into some of the most profitable half-hours in all of television with his shows "Two and a Half Men," "The Big Bang Theory" and most recently "Mike & Molly."
Ziffren noted that "Big Bang Theory" (produced by Warner Bros. Television), which airs on CBS on Thursday nights, is beating the once-invincible Fox Broadcasting singing competition "American Idol" in the ratings.
"Look, 'Idol' is still a monster show, I wish that I had it, but it's not what it used to be," Moonves said.
For the record, Moonves said his two favorite dramas on television were "The Good Wife" on CBS and "Homeland" on Showtime, which is owned by CBS.
"And they are both mine," he said.
-- Meg James
Photo: CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves in April 2011 at the National Assn. of Broadcasters convention. Credit: Julie Jacobson / Associated Press