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Robust ad market lifts CBS' first-quarter earnings

May 3, 2011 |  2:37 pm

In a sign that the advertising market remains strong, broadcasting giant CBS Corp. beat analysts' expectations with solid first-quarter results and raised its quarterly dividend.

For the period ended March 31, CBS on Tuesday reported net earnings of $202 million, or 29 cents a share, a substantial improvement from its $26 million loss, or 4 cents a share, in the previous year period.

Moonvesap CBS' revenue of $3.51 billion was about 1% lower than the $3.53 billion it produced in the first quarter of 2010 when the network aired the Super Bowl. Television's biggest sporting event typically brings about $200 million in extra revenue, but does not add to profits because of the high cost to produce the telecast.

Analysts had been expecting earnings per share of 19 cents on $3.46 billion in revenue.

"Across the board, this was an exceptionally strong quarter for CBS, giving us a tremendous start in 2011," said Chief Executive Leslie Moonves. "Looking ahead, we have great momentum heading into this year's upfront marketplace," Moonves said referring to the event at which TV networks sell the bulk of their advertising inventory for the upcoming fall season.

Revenue grew at nearly all of CBS' business units, including the local TV stations, radio and billboard signs unit. The New York-based company's cable networks, primarily Showtime, and the Simon & Schuster publishing house, also increased revenue.  

Moonves announced the company had doubled its quarterly dividend to 10 cents a share.

"Clearly, we are in terrific shape on every front," Moonves told analysts in an afternoon conference call.

-- Meg James

Photo: CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves. Credit: Julie Jacobson / AP