ViacomCBS Whiffs on Wall Street’s Estimates for First Quarterly Earnings

Q4 marred by soft box office, cord-cutting and a decline in political advertising

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ViacomCBS reported its first quarterly earnings as a recombined company Thursday, missing Wall Street’s estimates and swinging to a loss.

Wall Street forecast earnings per share (EPS) of $1.44 on $7.36 billion in revenue, according to a consensus estimate compiled by Yahoo Finance. On Thursday, ViacomCBS actually reported adjusted EPS of 97 cents on $6.871 billion in revenue, down 3% from the $7.092 billion in revenue from the comparable 2018 quarter.

ViacomCBS, which was formed by the finalized re-merging of Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. in December, had a net loss of $258 million in Q4, compared to the $887 million in profit it posted in the comparable year-ago period. “Restructuring and other corporate matters” — in other words, the merger — cost ViacomCBS $468 million in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Elsewhere, ViacomCBS was marred by a soft box office, cord-cutting, a decline in political advertising and lower publishing sales. Revenue from affiliates increased by 1%.

“In less than three months since completing our merger, we have made significant progress integrating and transforming ViacomCBS,” ViacomCBS president and CEO Bob Bakish said in a prepared statement accompanying the financials. “We see incredible opportunity to realize the full power of our position as one of the largest content producers and providers in the world. This is an exciting and valuable place to be at a time when demand for content has never been higher, and we will use our strength across genres, formats, demos and geographies to serve the largest addressable audience, on our own platforms and others. In 2020, our priorities are maximizing the power of our content, unlocking more value from our biggest revenue lines and accelerating our momentum in streaming. With this as a backdrop, we’ve set clear targets for the year and are providing increased transparency around our business to demonstrate ViacomCBS’ ability to create shareholder value today, as we continue evolving and growing our business for tomorrow.”

In August of last year, when the two first reached their merger agreement, Viacom and CBS said that the merger would result in cost savings of $500 million annually. Today, ViacomCBS said in its earnings report that that synergy estimate has increased to $750 million.

ViacomCBS stock closed Wednesday afternoon at $35.67 per share, up 57 cents from where it opened that morning. Though the regular trading day for the U.S. stock markets open at 9:30 a.m. ET, premarket numbers are looking rough.

As TheWrap reported earlier this month, ViacomCBS is planning the launch of a streaming service that would combine CBS All Access with the rest of its assets, including Paramount, Pluto TV and Viacom’s stable of channels. The company is also expected to enact two rounds of layoffs soon, with the first set to come as early as Feb. 26 — a little less than three months after Viacom and CBS closed their merger, bringing the two companies back together for the first time since 2005.

Next month, former NBCU studio executive George Cheeks will take over as CEO of CBS assets. He’ll effectively replace Joe Ianniello, who had filled the role since Les Moonves’ departure in Fall 2018.

Bakish and other ViacomCBS executives will host a conference call at 8:30 a.m. ET to discuss the quarter and full-year earnings in greater detail.