CBS's flat sales in the first quarter were impressive considering the ad-magnet sports events it didn't have this go around.
The broadcaster posted a 14.4% rise in earnings thanks to rising license fees and syndication deals.
In the first three months of 2007, CBS (nyse: CBS - news - people ) had both college basketball semifinals and Super Bowl broadcasts to lure advertisers.
In 2008, however, Fox tackled Super Bowl coverage and the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Semifinals aired in CBS's second quarter, hurting first-quarter television sales comparisons by 10.0%, the company said. The quarter's weak line-up and the writers' strike caused a 15.0% drop in advertising sales, which could have been worse if not cushioned by increased political advertising.
Weakness within the television segment overshadowed several strengths, including an international distribution deal for its grisly crime investigation series, "CSI," and second-cycle syndication for the sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond." CBS also reported a 6.0% increase in affiliate sales driven by rate increases and subscriber growth at Showtime and CBS College Sports Network. An 85.0% increase in license fees also helped television sales grow 1.0% to $2.6 billion despite the quarter's comparatively light sporting event coverage.
CBS shares added 66 cents, or 2.9%, to close at $23.20 on Tuesday.
First-quarter net income rose 14.4% to $244.3 million, or 36 cents a share, from $213.5 million, or 28 cents a share, in the prior year. The quarter's results include $43.5 million of income tax expense and sales were flat at $3.7 billion.
Problem spots on the balance sheet were the company's publishing and radio businesses. CBS, which owns the publishing company Simon & Schuster, said the quarter's best-sellers failed to match 2007's big first-quarter page-turner: Rhonda Byrne's The Secret. Publishing sales fell 12.0% to $201.6 million.
CBS Radio revenues fell 9.0% to $363.5 million because of weak ad sales and divested stations.
CBS guided for operating income before depreciation and amortization and operating income growth to be in the range of 3.0% to 5.0% based on 2007's OIBDA of $3.2 billion and operating income of $2.7 billion, excluding compensation expense.
Indicating confidence in the future, the company's board increased the quarterly dividend by 8.0% to 27 cents from 25 cents a share. The dividend is payable on July 1 and to shareholders of record on June 3.