CBS optimistic about Q3 advertising

Les Moonves says CBS Films releases are 'low risk'

NEW YORK -- CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves said Thursday that advertising momentum continues to be better for his company in the current third quarter than earlier in the year.

But he wouldn't say whether third-quarter revenue for the CBS network would be up year-over-year.

Appearing at the Bank of America-Merrill Lynch 2009 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in Marina del Rey, Calif., Moonves was asked by analyst Jessica Reif Cohen if the network would be up in the current quarter. "I can't talk about that," Moonves replied, but emphasized that revenue will be above the second quarter.

He also said third-quarter scatter market sales are "very strong." CBS sold about 65% of its ad inventory in this year's upfront ad market, about 10-15 percentage points less than usual, the CEO reiterated.

Asked about fourth-quarter scatter, he predicted it will "remain strong" and be up over the year-ago period when the network had less scatter inventory to sell.

Moonves didn't take issue with the analyst's suggestion that ad trends seem to have continued on a positive trajectory since a bullish second-quarter earnings call that had set CBS apart from other media biggies, most of which have remained cautious about ad trends.

In response to questions about the CBS Films' movie strategy ahead of its first release featuring Jennifer Lopez in January followed by a Harrison Ford release, Moonves shrugged off any Wall Street concerns. "These are real movies with big movie stars," he said. "This is a low risk proposition."

Moonves once again declined to break out financials for Showtime, which the company hasn't done, but he said his firm often bucks industry trends. That's why Showtime is up 1.5 million subscribers even while some other premium TV players have seen subscriber declines.

Moonves also said Thursday that he has no plans for big acquisitions and no interest in selling CBS Corp.'s radio or outdoor units, even though he signaled he is eyeing further station sales to focus only on the largest radio markets.

CBS Radio has seen some months as of late of ad gains, and he expects more of that soon, even though for the year the unit remains down ad-wise, Moonves said.
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