CBS: In the Money

NBC falls, ABC rises in B&C's annual ranking of broadcast and cable networks
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Ten years ago, CBS had a black eye. The network had just lost the NFL, watched 20% of its stations switch affiliation and was solidly fourth among the Big Four.

What a difference a decade makes. Now CBS is finally No. 1 where it really counts: money. The network finished 2005 at the top of B&C's annual ranking of the 25 largest TV networks.

CBS revenues grew only modestly, 5%, to $4.7 billion from $4.4 billion. But that was enough to dethrone longtime leader NBC, whose prime time ratings trouble helped fuel an enormous plunge from first place all the way down to fifth.

CBS' achievement comes as its parent splits itself in two. Last week, the network and its stations became the anchor of CBS Corp., as MTV Networks and studio Paramount were spun away into a “new” Viacom Corp.

CBS' ascent to No. 1 is the culmination of a decade-long rebuild by Chairman Leslie Moonves. When he took control, the network's schedule was weak, its audience aging, but he gradually overhauled it into a powerhouse with a broad stable of strong shows.

Moonves says CBS' achievement highlights the importance of paying attention to the basic business of TV. Industry executives are riveted by the promise—and the threat—of new media like video iPods, cellphone TV and the Web. “That's important,” he says. However, “it is still our priority to keep the network as strong as it has ever been. Getting 30 million people to watch CSI week in and week out is still the name of the game.”

B&C estimates network revenue each year to show where money really flows in the TV business. While everyone watches the Nielsens, advertising isn't the only driver of the TV business. QVC came within $200 million of topping CBS in 2005, and it sells no advertising at all, instead making all its money hawking computers, candles and clothing (the most searched item on its Web site last year: Birkenstocks). HBO, the 28 million-subscriber pay channel, collects more in license fees from cable and DBS than last year's most-watched network, Fox, sells in advertising.

The biggest shift is NBC's dramatic 23% drop from $5.1 billion to just $3.9 billion. Its prime time audience shrank 15% this season, following a 17% dive during 2004-05. The prime time loss was exacerbated by the absence of ad revenue from the Summer Olympics, which had aired on NBC in 2004. The biggest gainer is Fox News Channel, up 22%.

New to the list is VH1, sneaking in at 25, aided by new affiliation deals by parent MTV Networks and surprisingly strong success with the “celebreality” genre. “It's the shows,” says VH1 General Manager Tom Calderone. “The financial momentum the channel has had is all about the shows.”

In 2006, even if NBC's prime time schedule doesn't turn around, revenues will definitely return: The network has the Winter Olympics in February and gets prime time rights to Sunday-night NFL games next season.

At CBS, Moonves may finally get his clear ratings win in all major demos, which will only help revenues. CBS was first in ratings for the first half of the TV season, but ABC is armed with both the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards.

CBS


2005 revenue: $4.67 billion
Owner: Viacom
Top EXEC: Leslie Moonves, president/CEO, CBS Corp.
Programming: General entertainment
Type: Broadcast
TV homes reached: 109 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 12.9 million

QVC


2005 revenue: $4.49 billion
Owner: Liberty Media
Top EXEC: Michael George, president/CEO
Programming: Home shopping
Type: Cable
TV homes reached: 90.5 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: Not available

ESPN


2005 revenue: $4.03 billion
Owner: Disney Co. and Hearst Corp.
Top EXEC: George Bodenheimer, president, ESPN/ABC Sports
Programming: Sports
Type: Ad-supported cable
TV homes reached: 90.1 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 2.9 million

ABC


2005 revenue: $3.91 billion
Owner: Disney Co.
Top EXEC: Anne Sweeney, president, Disney-ABC Television Group
Programming: General entertainment
Type: Broadcast
TV homes reached: 109 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 10.3 million

NBC


2005 revenue: $3.9 billion
Owner: General Electric
Top EXEC: Jeff Zucker, chairman/CEO, NBC Universal TV Group
Programming: General entertainment
Type: Broadcast
TV homes reached: 109 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 9.1 million

HBO


2005 revenue: $2.93 billion
Owner: Time Warner
Top EXEC: Chris Albrecht, chairman/CEO
Programming: General entertainment
Type: Pay cable
TV homes reached: 27.0 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 835,000

Fox


2005 revenue: $2.62 billion
Owner: News Corp.
Top EXEC: Tony Vinciquerra, president, Fox Networks Group
Programming: General entertainment
Type: Broadcast
TV homes reached: 106.0 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 7.9 million

HSN


2005 revenue: $1.9 billion
Owner: Interactive Corp.
Top EXEC: Marty Nealon, president
Programming: Retail shopping
Type: Cable
TV homes reached: 89 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: Not available

Nickelodeon


2005 revenue: $1.67 billion
Owner: Viacom
Top EXEC: Cyma Zarghami, president, MTVN Kids and Family
Programming: Kids/Classic TV
Type: Ad-supported cable
TV homes reached: 89.5 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 1.7 million

TNT


2005 revenue: $1.57 billion
Owner: Time Warner
Top EXEC: Steve Koonin, EXEC VP/COO, TBS/TNT
Programming: General entertainment
Type: Ad-supported cable
TV homes reached: 89.8 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 2.2 million

MTV


2005 revenue: $1.44 billion
Owner: Viacom
Top EXEC: Christina Norman, president
Programming: Music/Reality
Type: Ad-supported cable
TV homes reached: 88.8 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 1 million

TBS


2005 revenue: $1.12 billion
Owner: Time Warner
Top EXEC: Steve Koonin, executive VP/COO, TBS/TNT
Programming: General entertainment
Type: Ad-supported cable
TV homes reached: 88.8 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 1.6 million

USA


2005 revenue: $1.1 billion
Owner: General Electric
Top EXEC: Bonnie Hammer, president, USA and Sci Fi Networks
Programming: General entertainment
Type: Ad-supported cable
TV homes reached: 89.7 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 2.7 million

Showtime


2005 revenue: $906 million
Owner: CBS
Top EXEC: Matthew Blank, chairman/CEO
Programming: General entertainment
Type: Pay cable
TV homes reached: 13 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 135,000

Lifetime


2005 revenue: $900 million
Owner: Disney Co. and Hearst Corp.
Top EXEC: Betty Cohen, president/CEO, Lifetime Entertainment Services
Programming: Women's entertainment
Type: Ad-supported cable
TV homes reached: 89.5 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 1.8 million

CNN


2005 revenue: $794 million
Owner: Time Warner
Top EXEC: Johnathan Klein, president, CNN/U.S.
Programming: News
Type: Ad-supported cable
TV homes reached: 89.9 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 753,000

The WB


2005 revenue: $715 million
Owner: Time Warner and Tribune
Top EXEC: Garth Ancier, chairman, The WB
Programming: Prime time general entertainment
Type: Broadcast
TV homes reached: 96 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 3.3 million

Disney Channel


2005 revenue: $710 million
Owner: Disney Co.
Top EXEC: Rich Ross, president, Disney Channel Worldwide
Programming: Kids and family entertainment
Type: Cable
TV homes reached: 86.9 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 2.3 million

ShopNBC


2005 revenue: $649 million
Owner: ValueVision
Top EXEC: William Lansing, president
Programming: Home shopping
Type: Basic cable and broadcast
TV homes reached: 63.9 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: Not available

FX


2005 revenue: $645 million
Owner: News Corp.
Top EXEC: John Landgraf, president/general manager, FX Networks
Programming: General entertainment
Type: Ad-supported cable
TV homes reached: 87.9 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 1.2 million

Discovery


2005 revenue: $637 million
Owner: Discovery Communications
Top EXEC: Billy Campbell, president, Discovery Networks, U.S.
Programming: Science- oriented entertainment
Type: Ad-supported cable
TV homes reached: 90.3 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 941,000

A&E


2005 revenue: $625 million
Owner: Hearst Corp., Disney Co., General Electric
Top EXEC: Abbe Raven, president/CEO, A&E Television Networks
Programming: General entertainment
Type: Ad-supported cable
TV homes reached: 89.3 million homes
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 984,000

Univision


2005 revenue: $621 million
Owner: Univision Communications
Top EXEC: Ray Rodriguez, president/COO, Univision Communications
Programming: Spanish- language
Type: Broadcast
TV homes reached: 80 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 3.4 million

Fox News


2005 revenue: $574 million
Owner: News Corp.
Top EXEC: Roger Ailes, chairman/CEO, Fox News; chairman, Fox Television Stations Group
Programming: News
Type: Ad-supported cable
TV homes reached: 87.9 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 1.7 million

VH1


2005 revenue: $560 million
Owner: Viacom
Top EXEC: Tom Calderone, general manager
Programming: Pop culture and music
Type: Ad-supported cable
TV homes reached: 88.5 million
Average prime time viewers 2 and older: 598,000

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