The “Hawaii Five-0” boys are bringing home the bacon for CBS.
Eye reported strong first-quarter earnings on Tuesday, propelled by an improved advertising market, retrans coin and other ancillary revenues and the new pact for the NCAA men’s basketball tourney that allowed the Eye to offload a lot of the March Madness costs through its partnership with Turner Broadcasting.
“Every single segment of CBS is performing at extremely high levels,” CBS chief Leslie Moonves said during a conference call.
Moonves made a point of singling out the network’s frosh drama “Hawaii Five-0” as a hot prospect that has the potential to become a “billion-dollar franchise” for the company along the lines of “NCIS” and “CSI.”
Moonves said the CBS TV Studio-produced actioner is already well into profit, bringing in about $5 million per seg. Show recently inked a mega-bucks off-net sale to TNT for nearly $2.5 million an episode, plus it commanded $2.5 million in international licensing fees from the start.
As for the big programming question hovering over CBS, Moonves said the future of “Two and a Half Men” post-Charlie Sheen remains up in the air.
“We don’t know what the resolution is right now,” Moonves said when pressed on the call. “Obviously there are a lot of moving pieces. (‘Men’ studio) Warner Bros. is exploring different ideas on how to do the show. We’re waiting on them.”
But Moonves was quick to add that the CBS network has enough bench strength to absorb the loss of its Monday powerhouse if need be.
“The good news about the CBS schedule is that we are not dependent on a single show on any night of the week,” he said.
Moonves touted the momentum in advertising sales that the CBS network has seen this year thanks to the tailwind provided by the strong perf of its primetime lineup. The revenue picture is also vastly improved at its local TV stations — even with the tough comparison to the year-ago quarter buoyed by CBS’ Super Bowl telecast and political advertising.
CBS said advertising at the Eye network was up 12% for the quarter, driven by gains for its NFL telecasts. With the strong pricing that CBS is securing in the scatter ad market, Moonves said CBS is projecting “double-digit increases” in the upfront market, which will open up following the broadcast networks’ sked presentations during the week of May 16.
Pay cabler Showtime is continuing on its growth spurt, topping 20 million subscribers, with revenue up 7%, Moonves said.
Overall, CBS’ first-quarter net earnings were $202 million, on revenue of $3.51 billion, or 29¢ per diluted share — compared to a net loss of $26 million in first quarter 2010.
Operating income soared 64% year-over-year to $576 million, driven by growth and improving profit margins in every unit, CBS said.
Moonves said CBS was eagerly awaiting the onset of its recent non-exclusive program licensing pact with Netflix. The suddenly robust market for Web streaming rights bodes well for the Eye’s bottom line during the next few years. Amazon and Walmart are becoming more active in licensing for the Web. And Moonves’ pointed to Dish Network’s recent acquisition of Blockbuster.
“I don’t believe Blockbuster was bought by Dish to be a bunch of stores selling cassettes,” Moonves said. “I think they’re going to be selling content.”