CBS Quarterly Earnings Beat Estimates But Revenue Falls Short

Monty Brinton/CBS
CBS CEO Les Moonves

UPDATED: Shares of CBS were falling as much as 3 percent after the closing bell.

Strong ratings for shows like The Big Bang Theory and NCIS helped CBS to earn 78 cents per share in the first quarter on revenue of $3.86 billion, representing a bottom-line record though falling short of expectations on the top line.

The company, which reported its financial results after Wall Street's closing bell on Thursday, was expected to earn 75 cents per share, about $446 million, on revenue of $3.92 billion.

Net earnings rose to $468 million from $443 million a year ago.

"I'm very pleased to be reporting record first-quarter profits, driven once again by our fast-growing, higher-margin revenue streams," CEO Leslie Moonves said.

Revenue from CBS fell 5 percent compared to the same quarter a year earlier, though the entire difference can be attributed to the $280 million that the network's broadcast of Super Bowl XLVII brought in a year ago.

Shares of CBS rose 2 percent on Thursday to $58.01, though they were down as much as 3 percent after the closing bell when financial results were disclosed.

During a conference call with analysts on Thursday, executive chairman Sumner Redstone, sounding as frail as he has for several quarters now, boasted of CBS' "position of great strength" then quickly introduced Moonves as a "super-genius."

Moonves addressed what he called "the lovely Aereo," calling the service that uses the Internet to capture broadcast TV signals "theft" and reiterating his confidence that the U.S. Supreme Court will deem the product illegal.

"I am not losing any sleep over Aereo," he said.

Since CBS can switch to something akin to a cable model if pushed by Aereo, he added that the service "won't be viable because it won't have our content."

While the CBS "entertainment" segment logged a 9 percent decrease in revenue, -- due to the Super Bowl comparison as well as two fewer NCAA Tournament basketball games than a year ago -- the company's "cable networks" showed a 12 percent increase.

CBS said growth at cable networks was driven by revenue generated by Showtime, CBS Sports Network and Smithsonian Networks.

The conglomerate's publishing segment saw an 11 percent decline in revenue with 29 percent it coming from digital sales. Best-selling titles during the quarter were Rush Revere and the First Patriots and The Women of Duck Commander, CBS said.

Local broadcasting revenue fell 2 percent during the quarter, and CBS again attributed the decline to the Super Bowl and NCAA basketball.

Moonves wouldn't make a prediction about the upcoming upfront advertising event, beyond an assertion that "primetime football will be a very high number."

The CEO also expressed confidence that DVRs won't harm earnings because more and more advertisers are embracing the concept that commercials can be effective even if viewed several days after airing live.

Moonves also predicted a "surge in political" spending will help CBS post strong results in the upcoming quarters because of what are expected to be contentious mid-term elections this year.