ViacomCBS missed Wall Street forecasts for earnings per share in the fourth quarter, but added a record 9.4 million streaming subscribers and smashed revenue projections.
Wall Street analysts had expected earnings of 43 cents, but they came in at 26 cents on an adjusted, diluted basis compared with $1.04 in the year-earlier quarter.
Revenue of $8 billion, though, far outdistanced estimates for $7.51 billion, climbing 16%.
Investors seemed unnerved by the earnings miss, sending shares down more than 4% in after-hours trading after they had closed the regular session at $35.99.
Streaming was by far the standout category in terms of revenue, shooting up 48% to $1.3 billion on the top line. Advertising, by contrast, flatlined at $2.6 billion, up just 1% due to lower political spending and fewer linear impressions.
The streaming subscriber gains were led by Paramount+, which added 7.3 million subscribers to get to 32.8 million by the December 31 end of the quarter. The company credited Clifford The Big Red Dog, a Paramount animated release that went day-and-date on the streaming platform, as well as originals Mayor of Kingstown, 1883 and South Park: Post Covid. Live events and the NFL also contributed, and the company had also rolled out some bundled discounts along with sister Showtime as a further incentive last fall.
Revenue at free, ad-supported streaming service Pluto TV jumped 45% from a year ago to $362 million. Its monthly active user base climbed by 10 million to exceed 64 million.
The company delivered the numbers minutes before raising the curtain on a two-and-a-half hour virtual presentation to investors. Similar to one held a year ago, as the company was preparing to take the wraps off the rebranded and expanded Paramount+, the event will feature a roster of executives talking through aspects of the company’s streaming strategy.
The subscriber numbers follow the company’s report last November that it had the biggest week since the March 2021 rebrand and expansion of CBS All Access as Paramount+, adding 1 million new subscribers.
Two major programming elements in the quarter were Yellowstone and NFL football. The former’s fourth season drew 8 million viewers for its premiere last November and that grew to a record 9.3 million, defying gravity and becoming that rarest of things: event viewing of the scripted variety.
The TV Entertainment unit saw revenue rise 18%, with NFL telecasts averaging 18 million viewers a week. Operating income before depreciation and amortization (OIBDA) plunged 73% to $147 million, which the company blamed on the downturn on increased investment in Paramount+.
The Cable Networks division accounted for half of company revenue, with $4 billion, up 17% from a year earlier. But adjusted OIBDA decreased 34% year-over-year, reflecting an increased investment in international streaming services and an increase in original programming.
Film bounced back compared with the Covid doldrums of the 2020 quarter, with revenue rocketing 61% to $826 million.
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