CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves Shares Insight With School of Communication Students

When Leslie Moonves arrived at CBS in 1995 as president of entertainment, the struggling network lagged behind its competition in the all-important television ratings. But that quickly changed, as Moonves catapulted the network from worst to first, launching hit shows such as “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Survivor,” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” His savvy moves, which earned him a promotion, have helped turn CBS into a multimedia juggernaut with successful radio, premium cable, and interactive divisions.

In two question-and-answer sessions held November 4 at the school's Shoma Hall, Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Television since 1998, shared with University of Miami School of Communication students the philosophy and acumen that have earned him a reputation as a network titan, telling them to “get in the door and show people what you can do.”

While speaking at the school's Shoma Hall in the school’s International Building, Moonves urged students to learn as much as possible from their opportunities and to think of themselves as entrepreneurs.

“It involves risk-taking,” he said. “It’s much better to strike out with a good idea than fail playing the same old game.”

Amid the challenges of an increasingly fractured media landscape, Moonves also sees opportunities for new audiences and growth. “We are slicing and dicing our shows and distributing them on different platforms,” he said. “How do you distribute it? How do you get as many people to see them and still get paid?”

Social media and the advent of the two-screen viewing experience offers media companies like CBS increased engagement with their audiences, he said. The company is also working on additional streaming platforms, international distribution, and a more robust online news platform that may include partnerships with major interactive companies.

For students interested in news and media careers, Moonves advised a diverse skillset with an emphasis on storytelling. “Storytelling is still very important,” he said. “You have to know new technology, and self reporting is very important. Before we used to have a six-man crew in Syria, and now it is one brave reporter in Syria.”

Moonves also discussed his own learning experiences. When a low-level executive first pitched him on Survivor, Moonves thought it was a terrible idea. The executive was so passionate and persistent that the show eventually got scheduled for a summer release and became a huge hit, much to his surprise.

Moonves said his willingness to learn, his ability to successfully pick people to work with, and his love for entertainment and communication have all contributed to his storied career. “I’ve got a cool job,” he said. “…The key is not a routine, but that I’m passionate about all these areas that I work in.”

For more photos from the event, visit the School of Communication's Facebook Page.