The day CBS turned down Steve Jobs’ TV deal

March 11, 2012, 11:19 AM UTC

Jobs invited Leslie Moonves to help him disrupt show business. Moonves passed.

Moonves. Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

“I told Steve, ‘You know more than me about 99 percent of things but I know more about the television business.’ ”

That’s Leslie Moonves, CEO of CBS (CBS), recalling a meeting with Steve Jobs last year.

Jobs was trying to talk him into providing TV shows and movies for a subscription content service Apple (AAPL) was assembling.

Moonves declined, according to the Hollywood Reporter‘s account of Moonves’ keynote presentation at the UCLA Entertainment Symposium Saturday, “citing his concerns about providing content to a service that could disrupt CBS’ existing revenue streams.”

Disrupt is the operative word here. Apple is in the business of disruption. CBS, despite the praise Moonves heaped on such digital services as Netflix (a “friend”) and Hulu, is in the business of trying to sustain what was once its dominant position in broadcast entertainment.

Entertainment lawyer Ken Ziffren, who was interviewing Moonves before an audience of about 300 show business lawyers and executives, congratulated him for the 52-week high CBS hit on Friday.

Apple’s shares have also set a few records lately. See the chart above for what disruption can do for a company’s valuation.

Jobs was offering CBS a chance to help reinvent television. Moonves decided it was not in CBS’ best interest. Jobs, according to Moonves, strongly disagreed.