|Cheyne Gateley/Variety Graphic|
But, writes anaylyst Jan Dawson in Variety, when you dip into the latest numbers, you get a sense of just how huge a move it would be to sell the division, which Bloomberg has valued at nearly $3 billion. By Dawson's estimation, the radio unit is more profitable on a margin basis than the company’s core entertainment division, which includes the CBS broadcast network, Moonves’ crown jewel.
So why sell or spin off? What the planned divestment is really about is revenue diversification, or reducing CBS’ dependence on the volatile ad business, on which Wall Street has soured amid increasing audience fragmentation.
At its investor day in March, CBS touted the change in its revenue composition over the past few years, citing a decline in ad dollars as part of its total revenue from 65% in 2010 to 51% in 2015. The 2014 spinoff of another ad-centric business, its outdoor division, contributed about five percentage points to that decline. Now it appears CBS is planning to repeat the feat.
Unlike with the outdoor business, CBS doesn’t report radio as its own segment; rather, it’s part of Local Broadcasting, along with TV station assets, which registered a 9% year-over-year gain in the first quarter, likely driven by station ad sales.
Dawson estimates that radio generated $1.2 billion in revenue over each of the past three years, roughly flat from 2013 to 2014, then shrinking by 6% in 2015. That amounts to 8%-9% of CBS’ total revenue.