Everyone knew that Q3 was a tough quarter for CBS. It lost the U.S. Open to ESPN, had one less Thursday Night Football game than it had last year, and fewer syndication deals.

But Wall Street is all about expectations, and CEO Les Moonves can smile with a report that at least beat analysts’ forecasts. Shares initially declined about 2% in post-market trading but rebounded to +2.1%.

The broadcaster’s continuing operations generated Q3 net earnings of $426 million, up 6.5% vs the period last year, on revenues of $3.26 billion, down 3.3%. Analysts expected the sales number to be a little higher, at $3.27 billion. But earnings at 88 cents a share beat the Street’s forecast for 81 cents.

“I’m particularly pleased with the gains we’re seeing in network advertising, including underlying
ad growth in the third quarter and even better pricing here in the fourth,” Moonves says. “Plus, having sold less inventory in the upfront, we stand to benefit throughout this television season as we sell our No. 1 network in a very robust scatter marketplace.”

COLBERT_0033_CLIP1_DEBATE_672052_640x360He told analysts that late-night ad revenues have improved 42% and he’s “extremely pleased with the early returns” for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

The main Entertainment unit, which includes the CBS network, saw a 1% increase in revenues to $1.93 billion, with operating income up 12% to $339 million. The company says affiliate and subscription fees, including retransmission consent payments, increased 55%. Network ad sales were up 1% while content licensing fell 3%.

At Cable Networks, led by Showtime, revenues fell 15.7% to $526 million — largely because it had few content sales while last year included Dexter, Californication, and boxing. Operating income slipped 7.5% to $246 million, although programming costs were lower without boxing.

At the Simon & Schuster Publishing operation revenues were up 2% to $203 million with operating income up 2.4% to $43 million, helped by Vince Flynn and Kyle Mills’ The Survivor and Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See.

And in Local Broadcasting, which includes TV and radio stations, revenues fell 6.2% to $638 million with operating income down 9.4% to $174 million without last year’s boost from political ads.