CBS Class B Earnings Call Insights: Outdoor Front and New Schedule

CBS Corporation Class B (NYSE:CBS) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Outdoor Front

Benjamin Swinburne – Morgan Stanley: Joe, can I ask two questions just on timing on the Outdoor front. Do you have an expectation for when you think you can actually move forward with an IPO? Is that a 2013 or 2014? I know you said you’re in the process of pulling the proxy together and also, second, what’s your expectation on when you’ll hear back from the IRS on your filing and then I have a follow-up for Les.

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Joseph Ianniello – EVP and CFO: On timing, we said we would file with the IRS in the first quarter and we did that I believe at March 15. So, traditionally, the IRS takes six or seven months. So, obviously, they have to go through their process and will respond to any questions they have during that process. On the SEC front, we will file that registration statement this quarter and we’ll go through rounds of questioning that they have on our filing. So, again, the anticipation is by the end of the year we are through and clear that and we’re ready for the IPL. Could it happen a little sooner or a little later that little bit of out of control, but we’re staying on track for that and we’re very optimistic about that.

Benjamin Swinburne – Morgan Stanley: Les, could you talk about a little about your plans for the network this summer. I know you obviously have the big show you’ve co-financed or coproduced with Amazon. There’s a lot of focus on sort of fragmentation and time shifting and how that’s impacting programming decisions. Are you looking to put more hours of content on the air, particularly over the summer, and do you think that more serialized makes more sense just given what we’ve seen under SVOD players, or am I over extrapolating on Under the Dome there?

Leslie Moonves – President and CEO: You know what, number one, it’s not a coproduction with Amazon. We have a deal where they are going to air it three or four days after it’s on the air at the network. So it is something that we have never done before. During the summer months, we were looking for the ability to put on more original programming because things were getting a little quiet during the summer, and we had to look for new models to do that. And because of the Amazon deal and obviously the strong international syndication marketplace, we’re able to put on a big budgeted 12 episode miniseries like Under the Dome on there. In addition, we have some more reality programming than we normally do and Big Brother comes back every year which it’s done extremely well for ten years. So there will be more activity during the summer, and perhaps even during the year. I think what’s happened with the SVOD partners, we’ve had a lot more freedom to put on more original program. Under the Dome is serialized in nature and that sort of lends itself to more of the SVOD and I think that becomes a part of it, but certainly not at the exclusion of the closed-ended shows which still sell veteran syndication.

New Schedule

Jessica Reif Cohen – Bank of America Merrill Lynch: I guess these are for Les, two questions, one on your new schedule, how much of the content would you expect to own given the amazing continuing rise in content values?

Leslie Moonves – President and CEO: Right now we own about 70% of our schedule. Right now it’s too early to tell. As I said, we’re still in the pilot process and we’re beginning our scheduling meetings in a few days. So, I don’t know which of our shows is going to get on the air. I can tell you, over 50% of our pilots are wholly-owned, so it will be a combination of some of the outside stuff, but also some of the things we own, and I anticipate there’ll be some above.

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Jessica Reif Cohen – Bank of America Merrill Lynch: And I guess, it’ll probably open to my other question, of the other 50% of the pilots, do you have a partial interest? And then my other question is really, the timing of the syndicated shows from Showtime, would that be 2015?

Leslie Moonves – President and CEO: In terms of the ones that are outside, some we do own an interest in and a couple of them we don’t. Warner Bros., obviously, we don’t – they don’t share in terms of the ownership, but some of the other studios do. So, it’s a mixed bag as it always is, but rest assured, when the schedule is announced in a few weeks, there will be a large, large percentage of CBS-owned shows. In terms of Showtime, obviously, Dexter is going to finish its final year. It’s been announced and it begins in a few weeks, and that can go into syndication soon after that. And the other two are in ’14 and ’15.

A Closer Look: CBS Earnings Cheat Sheet>>