CBS Earnings Fall But Beat Analyst Estimates

CBS CEO Les Moonves

Like other entertainment conglomerates before it, CBS dramatically increases its share buyback program.

CBS reported earnings of 76 cents per share in the most recent quarter, beating the expectations of analysts who predicted about 72 cents per share. On an adjusted basis, the entertainment conglomerate posted 78 cents per share.

Profit and revenue were both down slightly from the year-ago period, but that was to be expected since the popular sitcom How I Met Your Mother ended and competitors like ESPN stole some viewers away with their coverage of FIFA World Cup soccer.

In its financial report disclosed Thursday, CBS also cited "softness in the advertising marketplace during the quarter," and it said the absence of the NCAA Tournament semifinals, which moved from CBS in 2013 to Turner in 2014, also hurt.

Revenue was $3.19 billion during the quarter, down from $3.37 billion. Net earnings were $439 million, down from $472 million.

CBS shares were down 1 percent Thursday ahead of the earnings release and are off 10 percent for the year, lagging the broader markets. The stock, though, is up 460 percent in the past five years. After the closing bell when quarterly results were released, the stock rose 1 percent.

CBS apparently considers its stock a good value, so announced on Thursday that it was doubling its share repurchase program to $6 billion, following an example set by 21st Century Fox and Time Warner, both which also increased their buyback plans. CBS also said it would increase its cash dividend to 15 cents per share from 12 cents previously. 

As has been the case for the past several quarterly reports, executive chairman Sumner Redstone, sounding very frail, spoke very briefly during a conference call with analysts, basically just long enough to praise CBS and introduce "super genius" CEO Les Moonves.

During the call, Moonves gushed about opportunities for CBS in the coming quarters, in part because of the demise of Aereo, the coming debut of Thursday Night Football on the network and what he expects will be "a frenzy of political spending this fall." He also said that Nielsen ratings that measure viewing seven days after broadcast is a big deal. 

"For the first time, C7 was a major part of our upfront negotiations, including a number of breakthrough deals with key agencies. This will significantly drive our advertising revenue going forward since more of our viewers will be counted and monetized," Moonves said.

Moonves also addressed speculation that CBS would be interested in acquiring CNN. He acknowledged interest, but said the opportunity is off the table since 21st Century Fox said this week it would not pursue a merger with CNN's parent company, Time Warner.

"We thought about it, we talked about it. It's obviously something that's not going to happen," Moonves said Thursday. "The numbers they were throwing around were sort of silly and we wouldn't have looked at it on that basis."