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Les Moonves of CBS Admits Hip Means More to Him Than Ratings

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: I want to start off with a giant See, I Told You So.  A two-minute sound bite of me on this program back on February 19th.  That was when NBC said they're gonna replace Jay Leno with Jimmy Fallon.  I made the point that I was talking to a friend the night before, February 18th, and we were chatting about the landscape changes in television.  He'd said something to me about all these replacements, are they gonna maintain ratings.  And I said, "It's not about ratings anymore.  Ratings don't matter to TV executives anymore."  And he thought after a while, as many people do in conversation with me, that that was brilliant.  It is true.  And it stuns me, but in a lot of television, ratings don't matter.  I want to go back because this sets up a giant See, I Told You So.  This is me February 19th right here behind the Golden EIB Microphone.

RUSH ARCHIVE:  I had an instant message flash going back and forth about ratings and late night and I offered the following opinion to the person I was talking with.  I said, "It's obvious that ratings don't matter anywhere near as much as they used to, otherwise there wouldn't be a CNN.  There would not be an MSNBC if ratings mattered.  They wouldn't exist.  Nobody's watching.  In the universe they are competing, when you've got 75 to a hundred thousand people and you are a national cable news network.  Nobody's watching.  You barely get an asterisk, but there they are.  And MSNBC's got even fewer."

And I proffered this opinion.  I think we've gotten to the point in not just media, but our culture, I think television executives, management types, programmers, are more influenced by what the media says about a talent or a show than what the ratings are.

I find this fascinating, because as a culture now it seems more and more everybody's obsessed with what is said about them and what's thought about them.  You go to social media and everybody's vomiting everything about themselves.  That's why I laugh at people worried about the NSA.  What do you mean?  We don't even need the NSA.  You're telling us everything there is to know about you and then some.  You care more about us knowing who you are than the NSA cares about finding out about you.

So in the media you're going to see more PR campaigns, you're gonna see more people hiring image making PR firms to craft a public image, and somebody's longevity is gonna be based more on what the media says about them and their show than what their ratings are, because if, for example, if you're Lorne Michaels, if the media loves Fallon, who cares who's watching.  If the media loves him, that means you love Lorne Michaels, 'cause Lorne Michaels picked the guy. That means Lorne Michaels is a brilliant guy regardless what the numbers are.

RUSH:  Amen.  Who can dispute that?  Nobody can.  Okay, so let's go to Les Moonves now, the CEO of the CBS Tiffany Network empire.  This was yesterday in Los Angeles at the Milken Institute Global Conference.  I have appeared. This is Michael Milken's thing. I've been there one time. I was there with Willie Brown and Harold Ford.  Anyway, the Milken Institute Global Conference is at the Beverly Hilton.  It's that ugly white hotel as you're heading into Beverly Hills.  It's either the Beverly Wilshire or the Beverly Hilton.  I can't remember.  It's where Whitney Houston passed away.  Merv Griffin used to own it.  May still for all I know. 

Anyway, that's where it is.  The ballroom's okay.  Once you're in the ballroom you don't know that you're in a white elephant.  Anyway, so Moonves is on a panel entitled, "Entertainment:  The Big Picture."  The co-president of Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter, Janice Min, speaking with Les Moonves about late-night TV. And she said, "Can you talk about the economics of late-night and why they matter still?"  Remember what you just heard me say.

MOONVES:  Late night is not what it used to be.  During the days of Johnny Carson, even the early days of David Letterman, it was much more of a profit center for all of us.  The last few years it's been more about bragging rights, and clearly we're at a point where there's a real generational change. ... Late night is a very important part of our culture.  It is not as economically profitable as it used to be.  So they make a lot about the ratings, you know, and that really doesn't affect the bottom line. So I'd rather have the best guy, maybe, that doesn't quite have the ratings of the other guy.

RUSH:  Well, folks!  I mean there you have it!  This is the guy that hired Colbert. (summarized) "The ratings don't matter.  It's not nearly the profit center for us it used.  This is about bragging rights.  This is about who appears the smart executive picking the best guy."  Do I know these people? Do I know this business or do I? 

Snerdley continues to marvel at my instincts on this stuff. Even after 25 years, they're still dazzled in there on the other side of the glass.  He just admitted it.  He said here: "It is not as economically profitable as it used to be.  So they make a lot about the ratings, you know, and that really doesn't affect the bottom line." If the ratings don't affect the bottom line, then what does? 

Media buzz. PR. 

If the ratings are not how you're going to pitch advertisers...  I mean, you still need advertisers, but if the ratings are not how you're gonna pitch advertisers, what are you gonna pitch?  You're gonna pitch up "cool," you're gonna pitch "hip," and how you gonna do that?  You're gonna go to other media and you're gonna massage 'em and you're gonna have PR campaigns.

There are gonna be countless, endless stories about your talent, your host, and what a cool, hip, in-demand guy he is. And then you're gonna make sure your host is as visible as possible in cool, hip things and places.  Letterman, of course, doesn't fit that bill anymore because he's a recluse.  He doesn't go to hip places and do hip things. He never did.  Ratings used to matter. Ratings, Lettermen hadn't had any in I don't know how long. 

Leno owned late night and they still got rid of him.  Leno owned it, and they still got rid of him (this is the point) because he was perceived as cool and hip and young and all that anymore.  (interruption)  Well, Johnny Carson, he was a little bit of a recluse, too, but he was seen in Vegas now and then and Carson was seen at a couple bars in Malibu. 

He went to Wimbledon all the time. He was out there.  But back then, it was not fragmented.  Ratings were everything back then, and he owned it.  Carson had 25 and 30 shares.  There were only three networks back then.  Remember, you go back to 1988 and there was only one significant cable network. It was CNN.  You had TNT or TBS, the superstations that were doing Braves baseball, and WGN in Chicago was doing the Cubs. 

By the way, do you want to know how that all happened?  You ever ask yourself...? You probably didn't, but I did.  I'm working for the Kansas City Royals at the time, and I'm wondering how it is that the Atlanta Braves are on television in every market there's a Major League Baseball team. 

If you can sit and watch baseball on TV, why would you go see the Dodgers if you live in LA, or why would you go anywhere else? Now, that's not a good example.  Dodgers are gonna draw their crowd anyway.  Well, the way Ted Turner did it. Ted Turner... I once mentioned this to a TBS executive when I worked for the Royals. 

I said, "You know what?  It seems to me that in all those years the Braves stunk. They never won anyway, so they're never really a threat."  He said, "You are very shrewd."  It's the same way Sterling got away with being who he was for 33 years.  The Clippers never won anything!  They were always under the radar. 

In the meantime, Ted Turner ends up taking over cable TV for a while until it grew and so forth by having a baseball team that wasn't very good on TV every night in the summertime.  It was pretty smart.  But now we've gotten to the point where it is so niche and there is so much on at 11:30 that they're admitting ratings don't matter. 

It has to be, otherwise there wouldn't be a criterion.  People have asked me, "If nobody's watching, how does it stay on the air?"  The answer is CNN and the people that run it are considered heroes.  They're promoting the cause of liberalism, Big Government socialism. They're trashing Republicans every day. 

They still get invited to cocktail parties, those executives.  They still are loyal to the cause.  They're protected, and they still get advertising buys even though they don't deserve it.  There is a loss-leader aspect to the as well for other properties owned by Time Warner. But MSNBC? How do you explain that?  Nobody watches, but it's still there. 

Well, it's the way you buy off Al Sharpton. You give him a show. There's any number of things going on here.  But ratings don't matter.  Now, there's one more Moonves sound bite.  Janice Min, Hollywood Reporter, then said, "Are you concerned about Stephen Colbert?  Because it's been just the slightest hint, just the slightest hint of people expressing concern about the political views he has expressed on Comedy Central."

MOONVES:  You know what? Eh, you know, ironically, you know, Stephen Colbert is much more moderate than people think he is.  He's a great social commentator and that's sort of what we want. That's sort of what David Letterman has been. If you're referring to remarks from Rush Limbaugh --

MIN: Yes. (snickering)

MOONVES: -- that we have attacked the heartland of America, I would, uhhh, respectfully disagree with that assessment of who Stephen Colbert is -- and as one reporter said, "So suddenly Rush is going soft on Letterman?"

RUSH:  I don't get the connection there.  How...? What does one have to do with the other? Rush going soft on Letterman?  Letterman's the same thing.  But, anyway, you see, ratings don't matter. He wanted to go out and he wanted bragging rights.  He hired a guy and he doesn't even know who he really is. He hired a guy, a character, who makes fun of conservatives -- Colbert -- who then they promptly said he is dropping the character. 

So now CBS has hired a guy that the question is, "Who is he?"  It still doesn't matter 'cause Les got his bragging rights.  He got the hip guy. (interruption) Why does this matter?  I'll tell you why it matters.  Because we're straying further and further from reality, and we're being consumed by what isn't real.  We're being consumed by what we're told is important, what we're told is real and substance.

Reality is falling by the wayside each and every day.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH:  Okay, so the staff is eager to prove me wrong.  And, yes, I still face that, even after 25 years of incontrovertible evidence that my instincts are right.  Snerdley and my trusted aide-de-camp and chief of staff are trying to prove me wrong here in the commercial break.

One of the ways they're doing it is saying, "Oh, wait a minute, now." Even despite hearing Les Moonves say, "Ratings don't matter; that's not how we sell these late-night shows anymore. It doesn't matter," they are asking, "Well, then these advertisers that do advertise on these places, why do they throw their money away? 

"They have to know their advertising is working. How do they know if ratings don't matter?"  A, Moonves just said they're not selling ratings which means the people buying are not buying ratings.  A.  Does that not stand to make sense?  If they're not selling ratings then the advertisers are not buying ratings.

So what are they buying?  Okay, well, let's say you're the CEO of some widget company, and you want to be hip, and you want to be cool. So you call CBS and you say, "I want buy some time." You have your advertising team, your agency call 'em up and buy some time on Letterman or Colbert or whatever it is.

They sell it to you, and because the image that's been built around these late night hosts is that they're everything... They're more important now than real journalists, for example. Late-night comics are today's real journalists, if you listen to the latest PR.  So then all it takes is for one person to tell that CEO, "Hey, man, I saw your widget commercial!"  The CEO says, "Okay, mission accomplished! I'm hip and cool, too." 

And he'll go sell his product elsewhere.  He'll buy the impression of his product on a place not selling ratings.  That's called "cost per thousand."  There's all kinds of different advertising strategies.  There's results-oriented advertising and there's impression advertising, and the impression advertising is where you try to get the best rate for the most number of people are gonna see the commercial.

But it's not a way to prove whether or not the commercial's working in terms of sales, 'cause that's not even why you're buying it.  You're just trying to get the commercial in front of eyeballs. And if the network can promise you that so many eyeballs are gonna see it, CBS says, "Oh, no, we're not doing that anymore. We're not selling ratings."

So they're not even buying ratings.  They're buying hip.  They're buying cool.  Now, we on the other hand, can't. We can't do any of that.  We're not allowed to be hip and cool here.  We have to exist in the real world.  We have to have ratings, and we have to sell advertising that has to work.  If we don't, then nobody's gonna keep us on with no evidence here.  It isn't gonna happen.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH:  Folks, I'm making a point about all this because media isn't what you think it is anymore.  Be it news media, be it entertainment media, be it pop culture media, it isn't what you think.  The supposed hippest and most popular likely isn't the most watched or the most listened to. In fact, it's not even close anymore.  And more and more of media is becoming state-controlled. Or at least more and more media is aligning itself with the state, with the government.

Let me see if I can find it.  Now, I did not intend to spend this much time on this, I want you to know, but I'm being peppered with questions by my staff who are dying to know even more about this 'cause none of it makes any sense to 'em. And the reason it doesn't is because we can't operate the way everybody else does.  We have to work in the real world here where real success is real success, and where real audience is real audience, and real ratings are real ratings.  We can't live in some artificially created universe here of buzz and hipness. We couldn't survive.  We are, for what it's worth, mired in reality here. That's why I'm called the mayor of Realville. 

But more and more our whole country -- we hired a guy, by the way, based on hip and cool that we didn't know anything about named Barack Hussein Obama. We hired a guy hip and cool and whatever the buzz was, right, whatever the image they could make was.  The reality of the guy never was told to anybody, except here and other places.  Now, let me see if I can find this story because this illustrates the point. And again, I do think that this is really important stuff, folks.  You know me.  I am big on reality and substance and what matters.  But the more people who are divorced from it, purposely steered away from it, lied about it -- let's call it what it really is.  The more people who are lied to about what's real and what isn't is how you create more and more low-information voters. 

Now, here's the story.  It's a Mediaite story. "Jon Stewart Unloads Over Gov't Incompetence, Shouting Obscenities Into a Giant 'Screaming Jar.'"  Why is this a news story?  Jon Stewart's got a million viewers.  Why is this a news story?  No, Snerdley, jealousy has got nothing to do with it.  Are you not hearing anything I am saying?  It has nothing to do with it.  My point -- (coughing)  Excuse me, folks.  I had to hit the cough button there because I am still fighting the ravages of the common cold, whatever the hell this is.  It might be an allergy for all I know 'cause it's lingering so long.  Whatever it is, it looks and sounds like a cold. 

So we have breaking news here.  Breaking news, a comedian finds fault with the Regime. But the news is that the comedian normally is a slave to the Regime.  The comedian normally promotes the Regime. But all of a sudden the comedian has found fault with the Regime, uh-oh, stop the presses, this is news now.  And even though there are only one million people that watch, what's the image of The Daily Show?  The image of The Daily Show is that every college kid gets his news on this show.  Can't possibly be true.  There are over a million college students.  The image is that every young person finds out what the news is by watching. It can't possibly be true, but that's the image The Daily Show lives off of and promotes.  Of course, who wouldn't?  But it isn't real. 

A comedian finds fault with the Regime, Jon Stewart blasts government before State-Controlled Media, and what this does is now give permission to other Obama stenographers to go out and get mad at the Regime.  Why else is this news?  You ever heard of this?  When's the last time what Johnny Carson said was a news story or what Letterman said was a news story?  It might be water cooler chitchat the next day, but a news story?  So comedians are now -- and of course what are comedians?  They're jokes.  They don't deal in reality, either, by definition.  There has to be a grain of it for comedy to be funny, but comedians are now the twenty-first century journalists for the far left.  For the left, comedians are source authorities. 

Comedians are gradually replacing the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS, NBC, PBS, ABC, CNN, as the arbiters of when Democrats can be held accountable and when they can't be.  So if you want to know when the Drive-Bys are gonna harp on Obama, pay attention to the comedians.  When they do it's a signal to the Drive-Bys that it's okay to.  It's very pathetic, and it's how you end up with low-information voters who don't know what the hell's going on.  It's how you end up with Millennials down on the country, down on themselves, rather than on the people responsible for the mess that we live in and that's the Democrat Party. 

END TRANSCRIPT

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