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CBS 4Q Net Up 31% On High-Margin Distribution Deals

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES CBS Corp.'s (CBS) fourth-quarter profit climbed 31% as profitable digital streaming and affiliate deals offset the effect of lower advertising revenue. CBS had notched modest revenue improvements for most of the past year as syndication deals for older shows like "Cheers" complemented healthy ad sales from its existing primetime lineup. Its growing international audience has also proven especially profitable. The latest results still compared against a strong year-earlier performance driven by higher ratings for key TV shows, syndication of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and higher political advertising sales. Like its peers, CBS' broadcast network also paid more on average to broadcast National Football League games over the next nine years in contract extensions approved in December. Earnings still improved on increases in high-margin revenues, including digital streaming and affiliate and subscription fee revenues, and lower costs from programming timing. CBS reported a profit of $370 million, or 55 cents a share, up from $283 million, or 41 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding restructuring costs, debt-extinguishment charges and other items, per-share earnings from continuing operations rose to 57 cents from 46 cents as revenue slipped 3% to $3.78 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were looking for a 53-cent per-share profit with $3.91 billion in revenue. Operating margin widened to 17.3% from 15.8%. Licensing and distribution deals contributed $758 million to the top line in the latest quarter, off 4.8% from a year ago. Advertising sales were down 4.4%. Shares fell 1.9% to $29 after hours. The stock had climbed 36% over the past year through Wednesday's close. -By Drew FitzGerald, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2909;

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