You might say this company has a real eye for broadcasting. CBS Corporation is a leading media conglomerate with operations in television, radio, online content, and publishing. Its portfolio is anchored by CBS Broadcasting, which operates the #1 rated CBS television network, along with a group of local TV stations. CBS also owns cable network Showtime and produces and distributes TV programming through CBS Television Studios and CBS Television Distribution. Other operations include CBS Radio, CBS Interactive, and book publisher Simon & Schuster. In addition, CBS Outdoor is a leading operator of billboards and outdoor advertising. Chairman Sumner Redstone controls CBS Corporation through National Amusements.
CBS continues to draw the largest number of TV viewers among broadcast networks with hit crime shows CSI and NCIS and comedies such as Big Bang Theory. Newer hits include The Good Wife and The Mentalist. CBS also makes significant investments in sports programming through broadcasting agreements with the National Football League and the NCAA, among other organizations.
In addition to its flagship network, CBS Corporation owns a 50% stake in The CW Network with joint venture partner Warner Bros. Entertainment (a unit of Time Warner). The broadcast outlet launched in 2006 and has found its niche appealing mostly to young adults with such shows as Gossip Girl, Smallville, and America's Next Top Model. CBS also owns about 10 local affiliates of The CW; newspaper publisher Tribune Co. owns the bulk of the affiliate network.
CBS Corporation has only a small portfolio of cable networks, meaning it does not generate much money from cable and satellite TV subscribers. (Carriage fees from cable system operators has been a lucrative source of revenue for some rivals, such as Time Warner, Disney, and NBCUniversal.) Showtime is the crown jewel of the company's cable holdings.
The company also has a significant presence online with such leading websites as CNET (technology news and reviews), GameSpot (video game information), and Last.fm (social networking for music fans). Its CBS Interactive focuses on selling advertising across its vast collection of properties.
Like rival media companies including Walt Disney and News Corporation, CBS Corporation focuses on the integration of its content production and distribution businesses in order to generate multiple streams of revenue. A television show created by CBS Television Studios, for example, can be broadcast by the CBS network and later syndicated to local stations and cable outlets. Programming can also be released to consumers on DVD by CBS Home Entertainment and turned into licensed apparel and other retail goods by its CBS Consumer Products division. CBS Corporation also uses its multiple outlets, on TV, radio, and online, to cross-promote its vast array of media properties.
One common bond among the company's various properties is its focus on advertising supported media. Commercial ads on television, radio, and online, along with outdoor advertising, account for more than 60% of CBS Corporation's sales. But like other ad supported media, the company struggled through the recession and was forced to cut expenses in order to shore up the bottom line. Those efforts did include some layoffs. Particularly hard hit by the downturn, CBS Radio disposed of about 10 under-performing radio stations during 2009.
The company's publishing business is also looking to digital media in order to turn itself around. Like other publishers, Simon & Schuster is struggling to manage the long, slow decline in consumer book purchasing by focusing on cutting operating and production costs. Part of that effort has meant investing in new technologies to sell books to users of electronic readers, such as Amazon's Kindle and the iPad from Apple. It also sells manuscripts through social publishing site Scribd.
While still chasing market leader Home Box Office, the company's Showtime has made significant inroads with the help of such original series programming as Dexter and Weeds. CBS is also expanding its use of online video and other digital distribution channels for its television content.
CBS was once part of the Viacom conglomeration of TV, cable, and film companies, but in late 2005 the media behemoth split into two separate, publicly traded companies: The "new" Viacom and CBS Corporation. Viacom took over the film and cable assets, including Paramount Pictures and MTV Networks, while CBS took on the primarily advertising-supported media assets (television, radio, and Internet operations). Les Moonves, formerly the head of the CBS network, was appointed to lead CBS Corporation.
While the "old" Viacom possessed an impressive array of blue-chip media assets, its volatile movie studio tended to overshadow the better performing parts of the company, namely its cable and broadcast television operations. The decision was made, therefore, to split up the company in the hope that shareholders would value the parts more than the whole. – less