CBS sunny despite cloudy Q1

Brass sees signs of ad turnaround as company reports $55.3 mil loss

Another day, another media giant pointing to signs of a stabilizing advertising market.

CBS Corp. said Thursday that the past few weeks have brought signs of improving trends in the local and national ad markets. Like their counterparts at News Corp. and Disney before them, CBS execs said the worst of the U.S. recession might be over.

CBS chief Leslie Moonves said ad trends should be more solid in the second half of 2009, when CBS is hoping to maintain or grow its upfront market haul. That's because of Jay Leno's new show taking over the 10 p.m. weeknights slot on NBC and CBS' ratings leadership in that slot on four nights.

CBS could add 6%-10% to its 10 p.m. ad-market share, Moonves said.

"Even if total volume is down at the upfront, we're confident that we will take share and maintain or increase our revenue," he said.

The bullish comments came even as CBS reported a first- quarter loss of $55.3 million as the recession continued to drag down advertising businesses.

"I have no doubt that a recovery is coming in the not-too-distant future," CBS executive chairman Sumner Redstone said.

"We feel it is starting to turn," Moonves said.

The advertising scatter market has seen sales volume increase of late, with prices coming in slightly above upfront levels, he added.

The CBS red ink compared with a profit of $244.3 million in the year-ago period. Revenue fell 13% to $3.16 billion.

TV ad sales fell 15% on lower political ad revenue, and affiliate revenue rose 9%. TV revenue was off 12% overall at $2.23 billion. (partialdiff)