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Add *CBS* CEO Leslie Moonves to the growing of media execs seeing signs of hope as the second quarter of 2009 hits the midpoint. Moonves told analysts on the company’s Q1 earnings call that CBS (NYSE: CBS) is “seeing early signs of improvement in the advertising market place both locally and nationally. You have heard these themes from other major media companies and we are seeing it as well.” One sign: “In each of the last several weeks, we have seen sales pacing improve. It is premature to call it a full recovery, but the trends are encouraging particularly as we look to the back half of the year.”
Asked for more color about advertising, Moonves said CBS is encouraged as the upfront nears that the scatter market is returning. “It is returning at good CPM values and you know, we’re very pleased by what we’re getting.” He said it was too soon to tell about Q3 cancellations, but the second was “rather normal.” CFO Fred Reynolds added during another exchange: “I think what you’re seeing now is most companies feel more comfortable taking a little more risk, and therefore, willing to spend their advertising dollars. We clearly are a leading indicator.”
— ABC-Hulu: During Q&A, Moonves brushed off the suggestion that the addition of Disney (NYSE: DIS) to the Hulu joint venture of NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) and News Corp. (NYSE: NWS), would impact either the value of TV.com or CBC online video strategy: “We have had a different strategy than some of our competitors. we have had a different strategy than some of our competitors. TV.com is doing extremely well. We like the ability to control our own content, where and when it goes. We don’t like the idea of being exclusive to Hulu.” But, he added, “It is not so say that you won’t one day see CBS content on Hulu or Hulu content on TV.com.”
What he wasn’t asked about — and what he didn’t address — was the status of TV.com’s current tussle with Hulu over the distribution deal the two made before CNET was acquired with the TV site. Hulu yanked its content after the TV.com relaunch, claiming contractual issues.