This has become an interesting debate among investors as they await more details about yesterday’s deal, which they expect to hear on Wednesday when CBS reports its Q4 earnings. Most analysts are cheering the one-year agreement (potentially two if the NFL wants), and company shares are up nearly 4.2% since Tuesday’s close. They agree that CBS’ finances should fare well from the commitment to present eight Thursday night NFL games — simulcast with the NFL Network — this fall. The price CBS paid, estimated at less than $300M, “should allow CBS to make a small profit on the deal” as it “all but guarantees that CBS will win each night of the M-F ratings war,” says UBS’ John Janedis. CBS will sell the ads for the broadcast and cable telecasts and that “will bolster CPMs for those spots,” Nomura’s Anthony DiClemete says. (NFL Network will sell ads for eight subsequent games that it will air exclusively.) What’s more, RBC Capital Markets’ David Bank notes, “with 32 hours less per season to program in prime time, CBS could arguably cut back on original programming orders, especially for the series it doesn’t own.”
But Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger didn’t pick up the pom-poms. “This deal hampers their ability to launch and maintain their entertainment lineup, which in turn puts their syndication pipeline at risk,” he says. All of the games will also be on cable, so it won’t strengthen CBS’ ability to negotiate retransmission consent deals with pay TV distributors. And since CBS is already No. 1 on Thursday, there’s little to gain from ad sales. “They must be concerned with trying to keep those games from ending up on a competitive network, which they feared would significantly damage their Thursday night audiences and ad revenue,” he concludes.