UPDATE, 2:45 PM: Les Moonves stuck to familiar themes in his conference call with analysts. He says CBS is “confident” it will collect about $250M next year from cable and satellite retransmission payments. That will eventually grow to about $700M and “it drops right to the bottom line.” The CBS chief also says he’s unfazed by Fox’s plan to launch Simon Cowell’s talent contest The X Factor. It’s “going to be a big hit” at a time when American Idol “is still a monster.” But Moonves says “it won’t hurt us” because CBS attracts a different audience with its scripted shows. The old series in its vault also have new value as online services including Netflix and Amazon search for shows to stream. Moonves says that Dish Network — which recently bought Blockbuster — wants programming. Also, “we hear Apple wanting to buy content and Google and Microsoft,” he says. All in all, “CBS is a fundamentally different company today than we were a few years ago.”
As for the rest of the call, someone really needs to tell Chairman Sumner Redstone to cool it with the “genius” references. Analysts laughed months ago when he used the word to describe Moonves and Viacom’s Philippe Dauman. Redstone sadly trotted it out again today, saying that Moonves delivered “the performance of a genius” in 2Q. It’s no slight to him to say that luck is also a big factor in the company’s upbeat story. Moonves said that CBS expects to benefit from ad sales to Japanese automakers who “are coming back” after this year’s earthquake and tsunami. Moonves looks forward to huge ad sales to political candidates in 2012. He says it’s “a very good thing” that NFL will remain on CBS’ schedule with the resolution of the contract dispute between players and team owners. It also doesn’t take a genius to give cash back to shareholders — led by Redstone. CBS spent $250M on stock buybacks in 2Q and doubled its dividend to 10 cents a share.
PREVIOUS, 1:09 PM: The broadcaster reported 2Q net profits of $395M, up 163% vs the same period last year, on revenues of $3.59B, up 7.7%. Earnings at 58 cents a share far exceeded the 46 cents that analysts expected. CBS also slightly beat the revenue forecast of $3.56B. “We delivered stellar growth across every single key financial metric, nearing record levels in all profit measures,” CBS chief Les Moonves says. CBS shares initially fell in after-hours trading following the release but recovered to show a slight gain. The company says ad revenues were up just 3% in comparison to last year, when it benefited from political ads and a different deal for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.