CBS Beats Quarterly Earnings Expectations

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CBS CEO Leslie Moonves

On a conference call with analysts, CBS noted that ailing executive chairman Sumner Redstone was listening, though he did not introduce CEO Les Moonves, as had been customary when Redstone, 91, was in better health.

CBS said on Thursday that it earned 78 cents per share in the most recent quarter on $3.5 billion revenue, which beat the expectations of analysts, sending the stock of the TV company 1 percent higher in after-hours trading.

Analysts were expecting 73 cents per share of earnings on $3.47 billion revenue. In the year-ago quarter, CBS earned 77 cents a share on $3.57 billion revenue. Revenue was lower than a year earlier, the company said, because CBS showed one fewer NFL playoff game than in the same quarter a year ago.

On a conference call with analysts, CBS noted that ailing executive chairman Sumner Redstone was listening, though he did not introduce CEO Les Moonves, as had been customary when Redstone, 91, was in better health.

CBS is coming off its best year in history, having earned $3 billion in 2014 on $13.8 billion revenue due to digital streaming deals and rising reverse compensation fees, and Moonves said those businesses are also driving this year's results.

"We had terrific first-quarter results in streaming both internationally and domestically, as well as retransmission consent and reverse compensation, which are steadily making their way toward $2 billion in revenue by 2020, if not before," Moonves said.

He also said its digital product, CBS All Access, is in half the country and it will be offered to 75 percent of all households by the end of the year. He said that product, as well as its digital news service, CBSN, "are exceeding expectations."

Despite better-than expected results, of the four segments that CBS reports, cable networks was the only one to show rising revenue, while entertainment, publishing and local broadcasting all sunk.

As for revenue by type, affiliate and subscription fees showed improvement, while advertising and content licensing and distribution were each lower.

Moonves also told analysts on Thursday that CBS will have its most robust NFL offering in history in the upcoming season, including Super Bowl 50.

He praised David Letterman as someone who "changed the game in late-night television" and said when his last show airs in two weeks it will mark the "end of an era." 

The CEO also congratulated The CW, a CBS joint venture, on its "most-watched season ever."

Moonves also touted Billions, a Showtime series due next year starring Paul Giamatti that is about high finance, and he suggested that the Wall Street analysts on the call should tune in. One of the analysts suggested Moonves ought to hire him as a consultant on that show. Get in line, the CEO told him.

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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