UPDATE, 3:07 PM: CBS Corp chief Les Moonves is such a relentless salesman you can’t resist being suspicious when he makes seemingly over-the-top financial forecasts the way he did today. But the results in CBS’ latest earnings report are too impressive, and his predictions are too specific, to ignore. Moonves says he expects “solid double-digit increases” in CBS’ ad sales in the coming upfront market. That’s one of the most bullish forecasts we’ve heard so far from a network executive. If the NFL season falls apart due to the team owners’ lockout, then “we expect to get a greater piece of the (advertising) pie.” Talking up CBS’ programming, Moonves says that Hawaii Five-0 is destined to become “a billion dollar franchise for us” following an initial syndication deal that prices the show at $5 million an episode. Moonves also is a fan of Netflix and other companies that want to offer TV programs online: Moonves says a deal that would enable Netflix to stream CBS shows in Latin America and Canada “might happen very quickly.” He’s also talking to Amazon, and expects to hear from Blockbuster as its new owner Dish Network considers using the home video chain to launch an online subscription service. Revenue from the Netflix deal that Moonves cut in February will appear on CBS’ books beginning in the second quarter.
In other matters, Moonves says that “there are a lot of moving pieces” with the Warner Bros-produced sitcom Two And A Half Men now that Charlie Sheen is gone, and he doesn’t know whether it will return. The CEO also says that he “has no great intent to sell” CBS’ outdoor advertising business.
The bullish predictions, the strong 1Q results, a decision to double CBS’ dividend to 10 cents a share, and the company’s plan to keep buying back its stock had a predictable result: The price of CBS’ shares rose 4.4% in after-hours trading.
PREVIOUS, 1:40 PM: CBS Corporation just provided yet more evidence that the advertising market is regaining its strength. The broadcast company’s 1Q earnings smashed through analysts’ expectations. CBS delivered net profits of $202 million, up from $34 million in the same period last year, on revenues of $3.51 billion, down 1%. The company attributes the slide in revenues to the fact that it had the Super Bowl last year, and this year it didn’t. In any event, profits, at 29 cents a share, far surpassed the 19 cent average forecast among analysts who follow CBS. Executive Chairman Sumner Redstone kicked off the company’s earnings call with analysts by saying that “CBS is on a roll. … What a terrific way to start off the year.”
We’ll update after the call.