LOS ANGELES (TheStreet) -- CBS (CBS) may have an audience that includes a few more gray-hairs than its rivals, but as viewership declines across broadcast television, that faithful crowd of devotees is ensuring that the network remains one of the best-performing stocks in media.
CBS shares have gained 11% in 2015, a stunning performance considering that 21st Century Fox (FOXA) has lost 12% this year largely due to advertising shortfalls at its Fox broadcast network, FX and National Geographic. With only a few weeks left in the 2014-15 season, CBS is poised to claim its spot as the most-viewed broadcast network for the seventh consecutive year, with an average of 11.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen data.
As ad revenue has slowed due to younger viewers turning to video streaming services like Netflix (NFLX), CBS's chief rivals -- Comcast-owned (CMCSA) NBC, Walt Disney's (DIS) ABC, and, of course, Fox -- have also had to juggle high turnover among prime-time shows. By contrast, CBS, which will report earnings Thursday, has been a model of stability, says Brad Adgate, the director of research at Horizon Media.
"It just comes down to content," said Adgate. CBS boasts the top comedy, The Big Bang Theory, and other entrenched programs like crime series NCIS, which can be easily sold off to foreign broadcasters. "They just have built-in comedies and dramas that have been around for a number of years. That's something they always talk about at their upfront presentations, is the stability of their programming."
Meanwhile, Fox continues to struggle. Advertising revenue at Fox's broadcast network group fell 7% during the quarter that ended March 31, with rating woes at FX and National Geographic contributing to the problems.
CBS will make its "upfront" pitch on May 13 in an effort to convince advertisers to buy blocks of ad time months in advance. And this year may be especially tense for networks as ad buyers are reportedly primed to ask for no increases in rates or even price rollbacks due to dwindling ratings.
The network sold $7.2 billion in ad time last year, a decline from $7.5 billion in 2013. Its entertainment revenue, which includes its film studio but not cable networks, totaled $8.3 billion, behind only NBC, which sold $8.5 billion. NBC, which does not report total ad revenue, saw its numbers boosted by the Winter Olympic Games last year, which generated $846 million in broadcast revenue.