CBS Earnings: Sumner Redstone Says ‘This Quarter Tops It All’

CBS revenue and income increases from a year ago in first quarter and breezes past analysts' predictions

CBS Executive Chairman Sumner Redstone labeled the first quarter of fiscal 2012 the best quarter of all as CBS' revenue and income both increased by double digits over the same frame a year ago and bested analysts' forecasts.

The company reported revenue of $3.92 billion, an increase of 12 percent from a year ago and better than the market guess of $3.78 billion. It also reported earnings per share of $0.54, up almost 50 percent from 2011 and better than the $0.44 analysts had predicted.

"As great as these last few years have been, this quarter tops it all," Redstone said in a statement. "What's most exciting is that we are poised to benefit from all of the strategic actions we've taken — and continued to take — for a long, long time."

Growth came across all sectors, as revenue increased at the entertainment division, cable networks, publishing, local broadcasting and outdoor.

Thanks in large part to college basketball's March Madness, entertainment revenue rose 16 percent to $2.32 billion and OIBDA rose 53 percent to $411 million. On the earnings call, CEO Les Moonves pointed out that ratings were up for not just March Madness but the NFL Playoffs as well and predicted a big year to come with Tim Tebow in New York and Peyton Manning in Denver.

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"Clearly in entertainment, news and sports, our network programming is at the top of its game," Moonves told analysts.

Revenue at the cable networks, which includes Showtime, the CBS Sports Network and Smithsonian Networks, increased 15 percent to $452 million while OIBDA rose 37 percent to $209 million. CBS attributed this to higher licensing revenues from the digital streaming of Showtime series and increases in rates and subscriptions for Showtime and Smithsonian.

As for publishing, Simon & Schuster reported a 14 percent increase in revenues to $176 million as sales of digital content rose 64 percent and represented 26 percent of the publishing division's revenue.

"The growth in digital is a positive development for us because e-books have a better margin than the traditional print business," Moonves said.

Moonves framed this growth as sustainable in the long term thanks to consistent and "newly established growth drivers like retransmission fees and online video distribution."

Moreover, with long-term deals to air the NFL, March Madness, SEC college football, Grammys and more tentpole events, CBS can profit for the decade to come.