Which TV Networks Earn the Most

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CBS leads, but analysts predict even NBC will make money in 2011.

Hollywood May be nervous about low Nielsen ratings for new fall shows, but Wall Street is pretty bullish on the bottom line at the networks. All of the Big 4 are expected to end 2011 in the black, according to an SNL Kagan study. "No doubt, CBS is first," says former industry analyst Hal Vogel, but even fourth-place NBC should make money in 2011 thanks to higher ad rates and no Olympics, which dragged down profits in 2010. The news is even rosier for the TV conglomerates because broadcasters are starting to get retransmission-consent payments from cable and satellite providers, fees that will grow from $1.14 billion in 2010 to $3.61 billion in 2017. Says new NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, "The outlook, particularly for broadcast television, is much rosier than it was 18 months ago."

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