CBS is Ready to Shed TV Stations

CORRECTED station information added...

NEW YORK: CBS may put a TV station or two up for sale. CBS Corp. chief Les Moonves said as much in an earnings call this week, according to SNL Kagan’sTim Doyle.

“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,” Moonves said during the May 5 call. “You’ll probably see our asset mix being trimmed down a bit in radio and television, and that's probably the extent of it.”

(This information has been corrected.) CBS has both TV and radio stations in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Sacramento, Calif. and Tampa, Fla. It has TV stations only in Miami, Denver, Alexandria and Walker, Minn., and Norfolk, Va.. It has radio stations only in Charlotte, N.C., Cleveland, Hartford, Conn.; Houston; Las Vegas, Orlando, Fla.; Palm Springs, Riverside, and San Diego, Calif.; Phoenix, Ariz.; St. Louis, Mo.; Washington, D.C.; and West Palm Beach, Fla.

Norfolk is the smallest TV market at No. 42. (The Alexandria and Walker, Minn., stations are satellites of WCCO of Minneapolis. Baltimore is next smallest market of the group at No. 27.; Sacramento is No. 20; Miami, 17; Denver, 16; Minneapolis, 15; and Detroit at No. 11. The remainder are top 10 markets.

The CBS TV stations generated $323.7 million for CBS Corp. during the first quarter of 2010, up 29 percent from a year ago on a stronger ad market and increased political revenues. The TV and radio stations combined brought in $605.5 million, up 19 percent. Operating income before depreciation and amortization was up 148 percent to $134 million.

The CBS cable networks--Showtimes, Smithsonians and the CBS College Sports Net, brought in $368 million for an increase of 8 percent over 1Q09 revenues. The broadcast network is folded into the Entertainment division with CBS studios, distribution, films and interactive. Entertainment yielded $2.08 billion, up 15 percent from last year due in part to a stronger scatter market and robust sales of the Super Bowl in January.

Consolidated revenues were up 12 percent to $3.53 billion. Net loss was $26.2 million compared to $55.3 million a year ago. The recent quarter included restructuring charges of $83 million; last year’s included a tax expense of $18.8 million.

News of a potential partnership between CBS and CNN circulated this week as Time Warner Chief Jeff Bewkes fielded queries about it during his company’s earnings call. Bewkes neither confirmed nor denied, but said there have been “conversations” about news partnerships, perhaps similar to one Time Warner’s Turner Networks have with CBS Sports. Bewkes said Time Warner is not out to buy a broadcast network.
-- Deborah D. McAdams