CBS Reports Record Fourth-Quarter Revenue

Leslie Moonves - H 2014
AP Images

Leslie Moonves - H 2014

The media company said Thursday that it earned 79 cents per share on $3.68 billion revenue.

CBS reported better-than-expected revenue in the most recent quarter, benefiting from political advertising, its broadcasting of NFL games and rising retransmission and affiliate fees.

In fact, CBS said its results represent the company's best-ever fourth-quarter revenue and diluted earnings per share.

The media company said Thursday that it earned 79 cents per share on $3.68 billion revenue, while analysts expected 78 cents on revenue of $3.65 billion.

Shares of CBS rose 2 percent on Thursday and were up an additional 2 percent after the closing bell when its financial results were disclosed.

"It all starts with the CBS Television Network, which remains No. 1 and is growing its audience from year to year," said CBS CEO Les Moonves. "With a balanced schedule of new and established hits, the return of Thursday Night Football next fall, and Super Bowl 50 on CBS in 2016, we are continuing to build momentum from a position of strength."

Three of the company's four segments showed an increase in revenue in the fourth quarter, the exception being publishing.

The biggest segment, entertainment, which includes the network and studio as well as CBS Interactive and CBS Films, showed a 2 percent rise in revenue to $2.26 billion. But because of the high cost of NFL broadcasts, the segment saw a 33 percent decline in operating income to $253 million. 

The cable networks segment, where Showtime, CBS Sports Network and Smithsonian Channel reside, reported a 5 percent rise in revenue to $499 million and a 24 percent increase in operating income to $241 million.

During a conference call with analysts on Thursday, Moonves expressed sadness over the loss of 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon, who died Wednesday in an auto accident. The news anchor left behind an "amazing legacy of courage and professionalism," said Moonves.

Sumner Redstone, the controlling shareholder and executive chairman, who turns 92 in May, did not participate in Thursday's conference call.

Moonves also said that two major TV franchises, CSI and NCIS, will be introduced on Internet streaming services probably this year. While some spinoff versions of CSI are already streamed, Moonves said an unannounced deal is now in place for the original version, as well.

"CSI is already a multibillion-dollar franchise and new streaming deals will only add to that," Moonves said. "Going forward we have the whole NCIS catalog in our arsenal to sell, and discussions are already underway to license that show later this year."

Moonves boasted of 20 consecutive quarters of rising earnings-per-share and expressed extreme optimism for next year's Super Bowl. "$5 million to $6 million for a 30-second spot sounds pretty good to me," he said.

He also called speculation that CBS is seeking major acquisitions or a big merger nothing but "noise."

"Our company right now is so strong" with "quite a bit of clout," he said. "We don't need a partner."