You want to know which media companies are making the most money in the digital economy? Welcome to the second-annual paidContent 50 list


35. CBS

Broadcast, United States (Public)

Last year’s rank: #12

Digital Content Revenue

$1,200,000,000 (8% of total)

Digital Snapshot

Unlike Disney and News Corp., CBS doesn’t group its network websites and apps with the network. Instead, CBS.com is part of CBS Interactive, along with CNET, CBSNews.com, CBSSports.com, GameSpot, TV.com, Last.fm and 26 other brands. CBS Interactive was the 12th-largest U.S. web destination publisher in May with 73.8 million uniques, just below Comcast NBC Universal but considerably more than Disney Online and ESPN combined. CBS Local Digital Media is part of CBS Radio. Publishing arm Simon & Schuster gets nearly one-fifth of its revenue from ebooks.

Key Move

CBS shared its biggest flourish in 2011 with Time Warner’s Warner Bros., its partner in The CW, when the two agreed to a deal with Netflix that could be worth up to $1 billion if every bit comes through. CBS and Warner Bros. also made a multi-year deal with Hulu Plus to reach teen audiences, putting same-season episodes online only with authentication. CBS CEO Leslie Moonves is the highest paid of his peers — and digital is finally far outweighing his own compensation package as his strategy pays off.

Our Methodology

CBS stopped breaking out digital as a unit in 2009, a year after the acquisition of CNET Networks, and no longer reports an overall amount. Company executives confirmed last year that it reached a $1 billion goal in digital overall in 2010. The only number it broke out this year was for Simon & Schuster: 17 percent or about $134 million of $787 million in revenue came from e-books. The company also made lucrative streaming deals with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu Plus (some through its partnership with Warner Bros. in The CW); that expanded the digital bottom line for 2011 but much of the income will be booked over a number of years. A source estimates another $8 million from local, primarily from online advertising. Overall, it looks like CBS expanded digital revenue to about $1.2 billion in 2011.

Source: Our estimate

– Staci D. Kramer

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  1. “Creating this list wasn’t easy.”

    I can imagine. Manipulating the numbers to get Microsoft into the top 10 must have been really tough.

    1. Katie Fehrenbacher Zato Gibson Tuesday, July 31, 2012

      lol. but seriously, they didn’t manipulate anything. this info is from public data on revenues and their entire methodology is described here: http://paidcontent.org/2012/07/31/pc50/52/

      1. Yes, but they still should have had time to comment on the fact that MSN is no longer part of Microsoft and hasn’t been for several weeks. Sure that means they get to claim the revenue for this year but at least point out that they won’t have it next year.

      2. AlanL:
        The Microsoft profile page says: “Microsoft recently sold its stake in MSNBC.com.”
        And the research period for all companies here predates that sale.
        Any revenue change as a result will be reflected in next year’s pC50.

  2. Does this list distinguish between companies that charge users for access and those that do not, or was that weighted in the rankings?

  3. Why is eBay not in this list? They have an ad business on eBay.com and their classified sites, and the seller fees they collect are essentially paid ads since the platform doesn’t handle the items. This list is also missing Alibaba Group from China (including Taobao), and Gree from Japan.

  4. Groupon and Monster are’t really media companies. I’m not even sure that ad agencies should qualify in the same category as Viacom or Time Warner. Totally different business model.

  5. Mindbendingpuzzles Wednesday, August 1, 2012

    What about Valve and their digital games platform: Steam. I know they are a private company and figures are hard to come by but in 2011 Forbes reckoned they have more than 50% of the 4 billion dollar PC games download market. That is huge.

    I would really love to see Paid Content do some investigation on Valve because they are an incredibly innovative company who really push digital retailing to its limits.

  6. +1 on looking into Valve

  7. Google+ is a big strategy shift for Google and could, if executed well, become another digital revenue stream ti augment the search cash cow.

  8. Abdallah Al-Hakim Wednesday, August 1, 2012

    I think this is a terrific list despite any reservations some people have about the methodology. It really demonstrates the huge growth potential of digital media companies in some of the emerging markets. Also, as a scientist – I note Elsevier being top 5 in revenue (Elsevier is publisher behind many of the top scientific journals).

  9. Robert Andrews Thursday, August 2, 2012

    Thanks for the pointer on Valve.
    Groupon/Monster/eBay – yes, all interestingly debatable.

  10. kenhasselblad Monday, August 6, 2012

    What makes me wonder ist, taht there under th etzop 50 is not a single company from Germany. Germany is the biggest market in EUropa, but no German Hundefutter among the big player. I don’t buy that.

    1. kenhasselblad – Axel Springer is at #33.

      1. You might want to add Hubert Burda Media (Germany). Digital Revenue 2011: 937.2 Euro (see http://www.hubert-burda-media.de/chameleon/outbox/public/86cee9e5-720f-fba9-3dc2-33982b8b5069/Media_in_Transition_2012.pdf , page 131)

        Best, Sebastian (Hubert Burda Media)

  11. Thomson Reuters?! After Eikon failure & loss of half staff..? Are you mad.

  12. If you want to rank things on revenue, fine. But then don’t call it the ‘Most Succesful List': Microsoft might ‘make’ $3.9b on digital content, but it also loses around $3b every year too.

  13. Advertising Baloons Tuesday, August 14, 2012

    i know a thing that advertising is the best method to rank your own thing in front of the people

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  15. Arsenal Highlights Thursday, September 6, 2012

    Good Job Mr. Robert

    I am a freelancing SEO and SMM professional. The recent update of google penguin and panda has changed the SEO pattern radically.

    And google has done this algorithm change to spread their digital ads business nothing than this.

    I really hate this because, making loss to others for their own profit is a Digital Crime and Weak Business policy from my view. Check my site Arsenal Highlights

  16. Tripadvisor is all digital media and is around $750 M in yearly revenue and should likely be included on this list.

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