CBS’ ‘Thursday Night Football’ Hurt Earnings, But Still Scored: Analysts

At least two influential Wall Street analysts just cut their earnings estimates for CBS citing lower-than-expected ratings for NFL Thursday Night Football, which replaced conventional series in the first two months of the primetime season. All but two of the matches were “dull blow-outs,” helping to make the series “slightly loss-making” in relation to CBS’ highly profitable regular lineup, MoffettNathanson Research’s Michael Nathanson says today. He lowered his full year earnings per share estimate by 10 cents to $3.10, citing the results among other factors. Yesterday RBC Capital Markets’ David Bank dropped his earnings forecast for CBS by 27 cents to $3.07, in part because the Thursday football ratings “were not quite as strong as we hoped.”

Still, neither is blowing raspberries. Just the opposite. The temporary move of The Big Bang Theory to Monday nights helped CBS to “launch a new show on Monday (Scorpion)” while making Fox and NBC “look especially feeble on Thursday,” Nathanson says. (ABC also was off but “has built a relatively strong night on Thursday out of a troika of Shonda Rhimes shows,” he adds) What’s more, the in-game promotions probably “helped CBS launch its new slate of shows season to solid numbers.” For example, he notes that CBS has given full season orders to Scorpion, NCIS: New Orleans, Stalker, and Madam Secretary.

Bank feels much the same way. He says that the new shows “will lead not only to monetization in prime, but syndication on linear and SVOD longer-term as well.”

The most popular game among 18-to-49 year olds (based on live and same-day ratings) was the opener between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens (11.6M viewers) and last week’s San Diego Chargers vs Denver Broncos match (10.2M). In between, CBS had “a few of the most lopsided games,” Nathanson says, including the Atlanta Falcons’ 56-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Bucs, the New York Giants’ 45-14 over Washington, and the Green Bay Packers’ 42-10 over the Minnesota Vikings.

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