5 Things CBS’s Management Wants You to Know

With a good Q2 showing, strong TV segment growth, and aggressive share buyback activity, CBS could be a good play. Here's what the company's management wants you to know now.

Aug 22, 2014 at 9:51AM
Screen Shot

Logo: CBS Corp.

Needless to say, these are very exciting times in the media business. When you think about all that has gone on in these last 3 months and even, in fact, these last 3 days, it is truly astonishing. The good news is through all the change and all the noise, we continue to be extremely confident about CBS's growth prospects. We remain fully focused on executing our compelling growth strategy. -- CEO Leslie Moonves

Members of CBS Corp. (NYSE:CBS) management sound excited about their current business and their plans for the company going forward. The words above from CBS's CEO Leslie Moonves, during the company's Q2 conference call on Aug. 7 show their confidence in the company's continued growth. Based on the conference call, here are a few more things CBS's management wants you to know now, and a look at to determine if CBS is really a good play.

Returning shareholder value
CBS Corp.'s Q2 earnings of $0.78 per share, up 4% year over year, came in higher than analyst expectations. This is still low growth compared to YOY EPS growth from competitors like Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) at 24% and 29%, respectively, but the growth in earnings is still a great sign for this company that its transition from an advertising to content revenue model, as discussed further below, is gaining ground. With solid operations in most of its segments, analysts and investors have reason to be excited about the company's earnings the second half of the year and beyond. Furthermore, the company is striving to build shareholder value and return capital to its investors.

This includes a significant expansion of our share buyback program. Our board has authorized an increase to $6 billion, and we will significantly accelerate its pace. This authorization is in addition to $5 billion of stock we already retired this year that I just mentioned. Taken together in a short period of time, this represents more than $11 billion of value and more than 30% of the shares of our company.
-- Moonves

Through more buybacks, the company continues to return value to shareholders. The company's increased buyback authorization (launched in Jan. 2011) from $3 billion to $6 billion certainly shows this. CBS continued aggressive share buyback activity in the second quarter, with $411 million worth of stock repurchased in Q2, totaling $2.41 billion so far this year. During the second half of this year, this buy back trend should continue per the words above from Moonves. 

The company also announced a 25% increase in its quarterly dividend. While this increase only drives the dividend yield to around 1% as of Wednesday's closing price, it still shows managements commitment to increasing returned capital to shareholders. 

Screen Shot The many faces of CBS. Graphic: CBS Corp.

Proving itself as a content company
CBS Corp. is a mass-media company, but with much more than just cable networks. The company's segments also include entertainment, publishing, and local broadcasting and advertising. However, advertisement is one area that is not exciting investors as much now as it once was. The advertisement business has been historically successful for CBS, but lately has not been performing as well as it did in the past.

Luckily, the company has already been working to position itself away from advertising, and going forward the company would like to continue proving itself as a content-creation company, competing more directly with brands like Disney.

Following up on the CBS Television Network's first place finish in May, we continue to be the most-watched network this summer, with an unprecedented amount of original programming. This fall, we'll have ownership in four out of five of our new series and more than 70% of our total lineup, positioning us well for continued success in content licensing.
-- Moonves

The company had winning and losing segments in its most recent quarter. Entertainment and local broadcasting revenues fell due to what the company reported as unfavorable trends affecting advertising revenues. This decreased revenues from television and radio, which is one reason the company is reporting its plans to continue decreasing its reliance on advertising altogether and to focus more heavily on media and content creation.

While revenue in the cable networks segment also dipped slightly, income in this segment increased by nearly 6% due to better cost management and increased licensing fees . Finally, publishing made a large gain in the second quarter with an 11.6% increase in revenue and a 14% increase in income due to multiple best-sellers in both print and digital books. The company reports that it expects more best sellers in the pipeline for the coming months including works from Stephen King and Walter Isaacson, author of the best-selling Steve Jobs biography.

Tackling Profits
The company felt the effect of having lost NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship to competitor Time Warner who now broadcasts the event on one if its sports channels. However, CBS is still set to benefit in its sports network programming during the second half of this year. Thursday Night NFL games, which the company has picked up broadcasting rights to this year, are being promoted by CBS management as a major driver for increased viewership and revenues for CBS during the second half of this year.

Looking ahead, there are a number of additional developments that make us very excited about the back half of '14. For instance, after finishing first once again and, in fact, for the 11th time in 12 years, the CBS Television Network will have the biggest event on television this fall with Thursday Night Football. Never before in the history of network television has the NFL been on Thursday nights. National and local NFL sales are already pacing up strong double digits on Sundays, and Thursdays are doing phenomenally well as well.
-- Moonves

However, sports is only a small part of what is going to drive revenue in the second half of this year and next. Top-rated TV series, with growing distribution channels, will also help the company to continue profiting on its switch from advertising to content creation. "We are also very pleased that we lead all broadcast networks with 47 Emmy nominations this year," said Moonves during the conference call.

The network owns many of the most popular shows, including NCIS and The Big Bang Theory. Furthermore, the company continues to expand its deals with streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, which will add even more to its viewership.

With more than 100 million viewers per week, CBS TV is proving that content is doing well for CBS. Graphic: CBS

Is CBS a buy now?

So we feel very good about the quarters ahead and about our long-term growth prospects as a content company going forward. It all begins with the continued success as a CBS Television Network. In addition to winning this past season, CBS is the  No. 1 network this summer. And with Thursday Night Football on its way, we are very confident we will remain No. 1 for the entire 2014, '15 season as well.
-- Moonves

CEO Moonves is right. It is an exciting time in the media industry and an exciting time for media investors. So is CBS a buy now with its gains in CBS TV, growth in content, furthered non-reliance on advertising, great growth in publishing, and more?

The company's Q2 earnings were pretty good, but from an EPS YoY growth standpoint, it was still not as strong as competitors Disney and Time Warner. Furthermore, CBS is not the cheapest of the competitors from a P/E standpoint at a P/E multiple of 19.5, compared to that of Disney and Time Warner at 23 and 17, respectively.

However, CBS still looks to be a valuable play now. The company is making good on its commitment to transforming its business from an advertising focus to a content company, and so far has done so successfully. As the company looks good to continue returning value to shareholders through buybacks and dividends, and the company's earnings continue to advance steadily, this company looks like a solid long-term stock.

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Bradley Seth McNew owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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