CBS TV Segment Revenues Down 12 Percent

NEW YORK: CBS's results for the first quarter reflected the absence of political spending on TV as well as the soft market. The TV operations generated $2.23 billion in revenue, down 12 percent from the $2.54 billion posted a year ago. Operating income for the stations and the network was $184.7 million, compared to $404.8 million a year ago.

"Advertising sales decreased 15 percent as a result of softness in the advertising marketplace and significantly lower political advertising sales following the presidential election," CBS's 1Q09 results stated.

Ad sales revenue totaled $1.308 billion for the quarter versus $1.537 billion a year ago. Television licensing fees were $463 million versus $607 million a year ago. Affiliate revenues rose to $316 million versus $291 million in 1Q08, "driven by rate increases and strong subscriber growth at Showtime Networks and CBS College Sports Network," CBS (NYSE: CBS) said.

Consolidated revenues were $3.16 billion versus $3.65 billion last year. Net loss was $55.3 million, or 8 cents a share, down from earnings of $244.3 million, or 37 cents a share a year ago. Analyst predicted earnings of 7 cents a share.

"Like other companies, our results were affected by the economic downturn that continued during the first quarter," said Leslie Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corp. "In addition, there were a number of factors that had an impact on comparability."

Those included international revenues from the CSI franchise, lower production costs related to the writers' strike, and record political revenues, he said.

CBS also issued a cash tender for any and all of its outstanding 7.7 percent senior notes due 2010. The offer will expire May 15 at 5 p.m. Eastern. The principal amount of the notes is more than $1.2 billion. CBS is offering $1,035 for each $1,000 in principal on the notes. Forbes said CBS is looking to refinance the debt with $500 million to $1 billion in new notes going five and 10 years out.

"The bond offering fills a very important hole in the company's liquidity profile," Moody's Neil Begley told Forbes, "given that it has a large $1.2 billion maturity in 2010, cyclically weakened free cash flow generation, and a year-end 2010 maturity of its committed external liquidity source, its bank revolver," stated Neil Begley, senior vice president at Moody's Investors Service.

Shares of CBS rose as high as $8.80 a share today before settling down around $8.30 by mid-afternoon. The company reached a 52-week low in early March of $3.06 a share. -- Deborah D. McAdams