CBS Hit by Ad Slowdown

20 February 2009

NEW YORK: CBS, the US media giant, saw its total revenues fall to $13.95 billion (€10.98; £9.70bn) in 2008, down from $14.07bn in 2007, as slowing ad revenues made an impact across its TV, radio and outdoor operations.

A recent study into how the advertising slowdown will affect US media argues online will be the only medium to grow in 2009, with TV and outdor set to be relatively stable, while radio may struggle.

For 2008 as a whole, CBS's TV revenues fell by 1% to $8.99bn, with a 13% decline in advertising income being partly offset by higher profits from syndication sales and increased affiliate revenues.

Radio revenues fell 12% to $1.54bn based on slowing adspend and restructuring costs, while outdoor adspend dropped by 4% in the US and rose by the same amount internationally, meaning total income dropped by just 1% to $2.17bn.

Digital operations were boosted by the acquisition of CNET and an 8% increase in display ad and mobile revenues, but the company's interactive unit still recorded an operating loss of $9.3m for the year.

By contrast, pay-TV provider Comcast saw its operating income grow to $6.7bn in 2008, boosted by an 8% rise in cable revenues and the growing adoption of digital and "advanced video" services.

These contrasting results demonstrate that broadcasters reliant on advertising revenues face a more volatile climate that those focused on subscriptions or syndication.

However, Moody's, the investment and risk analysis specialist, has warned TV and radio broadcasters face a cut in revenues of at least 20% this year, with many posting declines of 25% in January.

The company argued that if the advertising market does not "rebound", the decline in broadcasters' revenue could reach anywhere up to 40%, and some may thus be forced to file for bankruptcy.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff