CBS’ Moonves: ‘We Expect Great Things This Year’

Boosted by strong advertising demand and with growth contributions from every sector of the company, CBS reported an 11 percent fourth-quarter revenue gain (compared to the prior year period) to $3.9 billion, while net earnings jumped to $283 million from nearly $59 million.

For the full year, CBS said revenue rose 8 percent to $14.1 billion while profits more than doubled to $724.2 million.

CBS CEO Leslie Moonves said the outlook is bright going forward as well: “Between the strength of our content, the way we’ve positioned our company for future growth and the ongoing improvement in the economic environment, we expect great things this year and beyond.”

Moonves said that with scatter prices pacing 40 percent above last year’s upfront prices, he is expecting another strong upfront market in the spring. He declined to say just how strong he thinks it will be in terms of a percentage increase, however, noting that the CBS sales department “gets mad at me” every time he does it.

TV network ad revenue was up 8 percent in the fourth quarter versus a year ago. Cable network revenue was 6 percent.

Moonves said the new NCAA basketball contract, now shared with Turner, has been “profitable from day one” for CBS, given it has a partner to share the rights fees with. Under the previous contract CBS was facing losses on the deal, he said.

With respect to the NFL, Moonves said if there is a lockout that causes a delay to the start of the 2011 season or a cancelled season, the network would “take an early hit” due to lost advertising and the requirement that CBS provide some smaller payments to the NFL. But potentially those losses would be made up at the far end of the contract, which would be extended to compensate for any players strike.