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Earnings Call: Redstone Explains Sale Of CBS, Viacom Shares; Moonves: CNET Propels Interactive

Beginning CBS (NYSE: CBS) Corp.’s Q3 earnings call, Sumner Redstone, the company’s executive chairman, noted that CBS is operating in one of the worst economic periods in recent memory, but said it continues to be in a strong position. He then turned to the recent sale of $233 million worth of non-voting share of Viacom (NYSE: VIA) and CBS by Redstone’s National Amusements Inc. theater company, through which he controls the stock of both entities. Redstone: “I want to discuss another topic on your mind. National Amusements, a company I control, has been in the news lately. Let me give you the facts. Debt issues forced the sale of these stock. The conditions led to the sale of $233 million of CBS and Viacom shares. This is not something that NAI wanted to do and it has no intention of selling a single share of Viacom or CBS stock. This is a difficult economic period. We are actively talking with our lenders. It should be obvious that the current stock prices of these two companies do not reflect their current value.”

All thanks to CNET: In his opening remarks, Les Moonves, CBS president and CEO, discussed the pain afflicting all media companies. He did single out interactive growth as one particular bright point. The segment’s revenue reached $140.7 million, compared to $35.9 million in Q307, thanks mostly to CNET (NSDQ: CNET). He noted that while the interactive category saw 12 percent growth in display ads, CNET itself saw display revenues rise 14 percent. Looking at the audience numbers, Moonves pointed out that two years ago, CBS ranked 110 in monthly average unique visitors. Today, with the addition of CNET, CBS ranks number seven.

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