CBS CEO: Considering Higher Dividend; No Plan On Apple TV
03/26/2012| 06:06pm US/Eastern
By William Launder
NEW YORK (DOW JONES)--CBS Corp. (>> CBS Corporation) will consider raising its shareholder dividend as its business benefits from a better advertising market and new revenue sources such as digital partnerships and retransmission fees, Chief Executive Les Moonves told CNBC Monday.
"We have plenty of cash, and our balance sheet is as good as it's been," Moonves said. "We have plenty of options." He added that the price of the company's stock, which closed 1.8% higher Monday at $32.42, means repurchasing shares is still a "good value."
CBS repurchased around $170 million of its own shares in the fourth quarter and $1.02 billion for the full year.
Last year, CBS raised its quarterly dividend to 10 cents a share, up from 5 cents a share it began paying shareholders in 2009.
Media companies such as CBS have faced pressure to boost their dividends as the advertising market improves and they carve out new sources of revenue at home and abroad. In addition, many media companies are offering what is considered a low dividend yield. In the case of CBS, it is 1.2%.
Moonves reiterated that the 2012 presidential election should result in strong advertising revenue for the company's local networks, and further pointed to strong demand from advertisers including the automobile, pharmaceuticals and film-entertainment industries.
CBS is historically more dependent on advertising than other media companies, relying on it for roughly two-thirds of its revenue. In recent quarters, CBS has sought to diversify its business by focusing on increasing the money it gets from cable and satellite distributors, as well as on new online-subscription pacts with companies such as Netflix Inc. (NFLX) and Amazon.com Inc. (>> Amazon.com, Inc.).
Moonves said CBS welcomed deals to expand its content digitally, as long as CBS maintains ownership of its prized content assets. "The idea is to put your content online in a way that enhances it, but doesn't cannibalize it," Moonves said. "Our content is the family jewels."
To that end, Moonves said CBS was undecided about forming a partnership with Apple Inc. (APPL) involving its Apple TV, after Moonves previously declined a proposal from Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs to syndicate CBS shows on the new service.
-By William Launder, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-3412; email@example.com