CBS: Moonves Sees Turnaround, CFO Predicts Cost Cuts

Joseph Ianniello of CBSCBS Corp. has been sending out mixed signals in recent months, encapsulating what seems to be a general midsummer ambivalence about the prospects of an economic recovery in the second half of the year.

The dichotomy: CBS Corp. chief executive Les Moonves is hopeful that the decline in the ad market has bottomed out, holding out the possibility of growth in the third and fourth quarters of 2009. In announcing the company's first-quarter results in May, Moonves said, "indications are we've seen the bottom of this downturn."

While acknowledging that any recovery was still in its very early stages, Moonves assured the audience: "We believe the balance of 2009 will be better than these results."

Moonves cited several trends in support of this assertion, including a big increase in the volume of scatter-market deals, with prices rising somewhat. Fred Reynolds, the company's outgoing CFO, added that auto advertising demand seemed to be rebounding.

But that's not quite the same impression given by Joseph Ianniello, Reynolds' successor, who takes up his role in July. In an interview with Bloomberg earlier this week, Ianniello said he plans to implement another round of cost reductions in the second half of the year. "The only thing you can control as a company, when your top line is revenue and those sales aren't there, is how can you run your business," he said.

While investors probably favor reducing costs in any economic climate, the fact remains that CBS -- like most other big media companies -- has already been wielding the ax, including across-the-board layoffs at CBS Interactive in December 2008. (One unconfirmed tally had 275 employees leaving.)

Earlier in 2008, CBS Corp. also cut hundreds of employees at the CBS Television Stations Group, CBS Entertainment and CBS Paramount Network TV. (At the end of 2008, CBS Corp. had about 25,920 full-time and part-time employees, so the proportion is admittedly small.)

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