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Interview: Leslie Moonves, CEO, CBS: Choice Between CNET, Weather Channel Wasn't 'That Blatant'

This story was written by Staci D. Kramer.
While others deal with the integration of CNET (NSDQ: CNET) Networks into CBS Interactive (NYSE: CBS), CBS CEO Leslie Moonves has to keep selling the strategy and the acquisition to his own grumbling shareholders. He told paidContent this afternoon he still believes the new CBS Interactive will have $1 billion in revenues by 2010-2011, with revenue of low-mid $600,000 this year. He also discussed buying an advertising company, the decision to step away from Weather Channel and the future of CBS News.

CNET v. Weather Channel:  Moonves says it wasn't "that blatant" of a choice. "Both have their values. I think CNET for uspremium content being sold online across various categories seemed to fit better with what CBS is and what CBS wants to be in the future. That's not saying that Weather (Channel) is not a very valuable asset, as well. But using the technology of CNET and their brands and their content along with our brands and our content and our sales expertise just seemed to fit better as I said for now and in the the future."

CBS News: The online operations of CBS News have been hit hard by cutbacks in the past year. Now it will be included in a division with CNET News.comheaded by a CNET exec. Moonves defended the strength of the CBS News brand overall and insisted "it will become a stronger brand online with the acquisition." As for the cuts, "I don't know honestly if you can say more has been stripped out if. It's just the reality that the revenue there was not significant. We think it will be an asset that does grow. We think it will grow in terms of size, profitability, and yes, it will be in a much more important sector online than it has been." More excerpts after the jump

Selling to the shareholders: Moonves has heard the grumblings about the acquisition of a company known as "old media" within new media.Moonves: "I knew the knock on it ... I don't think most of the investment community knew CNET very well or what it had and how it could fit together. Our job now is explaining that. ... In addition, we bought at a time when clearly people are nervous about advertising because of advertising conditions and CNET is an advertising acquisition. Advertising is not in good stead right now. Clearly, it will come back and come back strongly. We think this is going to make perfect sense. When you see what the numbers are going to be in the future, once again, this is a company that sells advertising and actually makes a profit. How unusual for an internet company."

Buying revenue along with traffic:  CBS bought its way into the top 10 of worldwide web properties, #8 in terms of monthly uniques to be precise. But CBS couldn't afford to buy traffic alone. "We do not have the luxury of a Google (NSDQ: GOOG) which can look at a YouTube, a phenomenal asset, and look at what the profile will be down the road. We needed some immediacy while still looking down the road. ... When we acquired, we realized it was a longer-term situation, and by this acquisition with CNET, we're playing for now as well as five years from now." Moonves says CBS Interactive was profitable before the acquisition.

Still expects $1 billion by 2011: Moonves won't say make growth predictions but is sticking by projections of $1billion in revenues from the combined operations by 2010-2011. "Right now, the number is somewhere in the low-to-mid- six's ($600,000) and we think that is clearly achievable this year .. when you combine the revenue targets for the two of them together." As for how much of that piggyback off of TV's programming budget: "A lot of that is going to be involved with our normal entertainment product but alot of it's not going to be."

Plans for Will CBS try to create a Hulu competitor at Moonves says the company already has a Hulu competitor with its distribution network. "With, that makes it even more viable. ... we think Hulu is a terrific thing and Hulu is going to be successful as is and There's a place for Hulu and there's a place for" ( already carries Hulu content.)

By Staci D. Kramer