CBS Chief Reiterates TV Station Divestiture

NEW YORK: CBS is still looking to divest TV stations, its chief executive said this week. Les Moonves told analysts on the media company's second-quarter earnings call that one or two stations could be sold within a year.

“We’ve always spoken about possibly divesting some of our tomorrow-market radio and television stations,” Moonves said. “In fact, we still intend to do that. But once again, there’s no great hurry to do that. And unless we get the right pricing for that, we’re not going to do that. However, there appears to be some nice activity now in some of the pricing, so I wouldn’t be surprised if over the next six months to a year, we do divest some of our radio stations in a few markets and maybe one or two television stations.”

While CBS considers unloading some broadcast assets, it was local broadcasting that led the company’s second-quarter rally. The 28 TV stations pulled in $337.9 million, up 31 percent from a year ago on higher ad sales in automotive and financial services and political, CBS said. TV and radio combined generated $678.2 million, up 17 percent from 2Q09.

CBS doesn’t break out retransmission revenues, but CEO Les Moonves told analysts in May that 65 percent of the companies revenues were ad-based. He said retrans revenues were on track to exceed $100 million this year, and to reach $250 million by 2012.

Moonves said during CBS’s second-quarter conference call that more than 60 retrans agreements had been reached, including this week’s pact with Comcast.

“As previously stated, we are now well on our way to delivering on our goal of north of $250 million in annual revenue from retrans in 2012,” he said.

The CBS cable networks pulled in $368.8 million, up 12 percent from last year. The entertainment division, which includes the CBS network, TV studios, distribution, films and interactive, pulled in $1.67 billion, up 10 percent.

Second-quarter consolidated revenues for all divisions was $3.33 billion, up 11 percent from a year ago. Net earnings were $150.1 million or 22 cents a share versus $15.4 million or 2 cents a share a year ago.

Compared to the same quarter last year, total advertising sales were up 9 percent, content licensing and distribution revenues were up 19 percent and affiliate and subscription fees were up 12 percent.

CBS ended the quarter with $838.1 million in cash and equivalents, and $6.52 billion in long-term debt. As of Dec. 31, 2009, cash and equivalents stood at $716.7 million; LTD was $6.55 billion. Shares of CBS climbed around 3 percent this morning to reach $15.48. Shares have gained around 10 percent year-to-date. -- Deborah D. McAdams

August 2, 2010: “CBS and Comcast Sign 10-Year Retrans Agreement”
The pact also includes carriage of all the Showtime Networks, the launch of the Smithsonian Channel, and expanded distribution of CBS College Sports. Comcast in turn will get more access to CBS and Showtime programming for on-demand cable and online platforms.

May 10, 2010
: “CBS and Fox Rejoin NAB”
“Today’s announcement also includes the return of CBS’s 29 television stations and 130 radio stations into NAB membership, as well as the 27 owned-and-operated Fox Television Stations and the MyNetworkTV programming service.”

May 6, 2010
: “CBS is Ready to Shed TV Stations”
“We’ve been saying for a while, we are a large-market organization in terms of our local assets, so we would look to continue to trim radio in the not-largest markets and even potentially a couple of television stations.”

April 22, 2010
: “CBS and Turner Cut $11 Billion Deal with NCAA”
CBS will be keeping March Madness for a while. The network is reported to have cut a deal with the NCAA on a new 14-year, $10.8 billion deal for the college basketball franchise.

March 2, 2010: “CBS Retrans Revenues to Surpass $100 Million in 2010”
“Retrans is paid on our owned-and-operated stations, but we are also sharing in the retrans that our affiliates have, a certain amount.”