CBS Corp. reported fourth-quarter earnings that fell short of Wall Street analysts’ expectations, largely due to a dip in its Entertainment unit caused by timing of international licensing deals and tough comparisons with domestic sales in the year-ago quarter.
Revenue came in at $4 billion, up 3% from the same quarter in 2017, but below the consensus estimate of $4.19 billion. Diluted earnings per share from continuing operations totaled $1.49 and $1.50 on an adjusted basis, compared with Wall Street’s view of $1.54.
In the company’s earnings release, acting CEO Joe Ianniello said CBS has reached 8 million direct-to-consumer subscribers between CBS All Access and Showtime, nearly two years ahead of initial forecasts. As a result, the company has set a new target of 25 million domestic subscribers combined from both services by 2022.
Ad revenue increased 7% in the quarter, driven by record political advertising sales from the 2018 midterm
elections. CBS said the growth countered the absence of Thursday Night Football, which moved to Fox last fall. Affiliate and subscription fee revenues were up 11%, led by 53% growth in direct-to-consumer streaming services and retransmission revenue gains, fees from CBS affiliated stations, and revenues from virtual MVPDs.
Content licensing and distribution revenues decreased 11%, which the company blamed on the timing of international licensing sales and several large domestic sales in the fourth quarter a year ago.
Entertainment revenues of $2.83 billion fell 1%, reflecting a 14% drop in content licensing and distribution revenue due to the timing of international licensing sales and comparisons with several large domestic sales in the fourth quarter of 2017. Affiliate and subscription fees grew 17%, led by growth from CBS All Access and higher revenues from station affiliation fees and virtual MVPDs. Advertising revenues increased 2%, reflecting revenues from Network 10, an Australian network which was acquired in the fourth quarter of 2017.