CBS, Comcast rave about Netflix deals during 2Q earnings calls

Jim O'Neil

editor's corner
If there was any doubt that content producers and broadcasters are fans of Netflix, yesterday's earnings call with CBS--which saw profits increase in the second quarter 163 percent from a year ago--put that doubt to rest. 

CBS CEO Leslie Moonves sang its praises like a true convert, pointing to the profits the digital deals with Netflix--and Amazon--created and crowing about how it was "another example of how we are capitalizing on the value of our content by selling it to new distributors without taking away from established revenue streams."

How times change. It was just over a year ago that Moonves worried online models like Hulu wouldn't pay off for the network ("The problem is, I'm only getting pennies online. If too many people shift to online, I'm not going to be able to produce CSI," which, he said, costs $3 million to produce each episode).

He reiterated his stance in December at the UBS investor conference in New York.

"Some CEOs think Netflix is the anti-Christ," Moonves said. "Others embrace it as the Second Coming. We're somewhere in the middle. Caution is not a bad thing here."

CBS CFO Joe Ianniello, however, said to throw caution to the wind, noting the cash coming in by the bucketful from the deal. The network's revenues were up percent, driven, it said, by a 21 percent bump in revenue from digital licensing and distribution.

"We're feeling pretty good, you know, about that," he said. "The Netflix International (deal) is gravy. We want to put gravy, we want to put some cream, we want to put cherries on the top of all that stuff, so stay tuned for more of that."

Comcast was a little less effusive, but no less pleased, with the value of deals it had inherited from NBCUniversal, which helped boost NBCU's revenues 17 percent in the quarter.

And it expects more of the same.

"The kind of money that online video providers are paying for content is infinitely, almost significantly greater than it was 18 months ago," said Comcast COO Stephen Burke.

For media companies, online video is becoming far more friend than foe.--Jim

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