CBS’s first-quarter revenues had tough comps because of the Super Bowl and an extra NFL playoff game a year ago, but big retransmission revenue growth seemed to make up for it.
Hit hardest by the absence of the Super Bowl was CBS’s local media segment. Local media revenues reached $409 million for the quarter, down 9% from the $448 million for the first quarter of 2016. Local media operating income also fell, down 18% to $123 million.
Overall revenues were $3.34 billion, down from $3.59 billion during the year-ago quarter. But affiliate and subscription fee revenues increased 17%, driven by 28% growth in retransmission revenues and fees from CBS Television Network affiliated stations, as well as the Company's digital subscription services, according to a news release. Meanwhile, content licensing and distribution revenues grew 16% thanks to higher domestic and international television licensing sales.
CBS reported a net loss of $252 million, well behind net earnings of $473 million from one year ago. CBS blamed the loss on a noncash charge of $715 million in “discontinued operations to establish a valuation allowance to adjust the carrying value of CBS Radio to the value indicated by the stock valuation of Entercom Communications Corp.”
"Our first-quarter results once again demonstrate the strength of our strategy, which is to diversify our revenue mix as we achieve our long-term financial goals," said Leslie Moonves, chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation, in a statement. "Retransmission consent and reverse compensation led the way in Q1, growing 28%. This contributed to a 17% increase in our Company's affiliate and subscription fee revenue, which also benefited from our over-the-top subscription services, CBS All Access and Showtime OTT. In addition, we a had very solid quarter for content licensing and distribution, which was up 16% and is poised for continued strength when several of our hit series enter the syndication cycle later this year.”
While broadcast and overall revenue declined, CBS’s cable networks revenues grew 3% to thanks in part to Showtime driving higher affiliate and subscription fees. Operating income for the segment grew 9% to $248 million, thanks to growth in higher-margin revenues.