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After Strong 2016, CBS Eyes Station Acquisitions

by Paige Albiniak  |  02.15.2017

CBS didn’t make much money on the just-closed spectrum auctions held by the FCC, but that was intentional. CBS is doing well by TV station ownership, and the company wants to remain in that business and potentially expand it, CBS CEO and Chairman Leslie Moonves told analysts in a company financial call on Wednesday. 

The company’s fourth-quarter financial results included a nearly 16 percent increase in revenue from its local media segment that includes the CBS owned television stations. As a whole, the group jumped to $526 million in revenue compared to $454 million in the same quarter last year. 

That growth was led by political advertising sales as well as growth in revenues from retransmission consent and subscriptions. 

For the full year, CBS’ local media group improved nearly 12 percent to $1.8 billion, up $200 million from 2015. 

“2016 was a phenomenal year for the CBS Corporation, with all-time highs in revenue, operating income, and [earnings per share] that came in above $4 for the first time in our Company’s history; and as we begin 2017, I couldn’t be more excited about our growth prospects in the years ahead,” said Moonves, who many people thought was about to become chairman of a newly combined Viacom and CBS, but that deal was scuttled late last year and Bob Bakish was named Viacom’s permanent chairman. 

Moonves also said on Wednesday that CBS hopes the FCC, under new Republican chairman Ajit Pai, will finally lift the 39 percent national ownership cap that currently restricts TV-station groups to covering that much of the U.S. Should that happen, as many think it will under Pai, Moonves indicated that CBS is interested in acquiring more TV stations. CBS currently owns 29 TV stations and is in the process of selling its radio group to Entercom.

“In the right circumstance if the cap is lifted we would strategically want to buy some more stations,” Moonves said, according to Variety. “Through retrans and political advertising the local (TV) markets are extremely good to us.”

While Moonves always has been bullish on the NFL, he said he recently met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about ways to keep viewers glued to their sets in light of ratings drop-offs for the league this season. Ideas on how to improve the viewing experience included speeding up the game and changing the way advertisements are inserted in games. 

“We’re trying to make the game as good an experience as we can make it,” Moonves told analysts.

That said, Fox’s airing of Super Bowl LI was the most-watched event in the network’s history, when all views via the network and streaming were counted. 

READ MORE: Variety, TVNewscheck

[Image of CBS CEO Leslie Moonves courtesy of Variety]

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