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CBS Flat in Fourth

CBS Corp.'s TV unit had an un-merry Christmas, generating virtually no revenue growth in the fourth quarter.

For the three months ended December, the TV unit generated $2.5 billion in revenue, up a mere 1% from the same period in 2004.

Advertising revenues increased 6%, at CBS/UPN Networks principally. But license fees for programming from TV production and syndication decreased 5%, largely because of the absence of 2004’s revenues from sales of CSI, which comes in big clumps.

The division posted a 9% gain in operating income to $394 million. That $31 million dollar gain was affected by a one-time $25 million gain from the sale of real estate in Chicago, where the company’s station is relocating.Operating income was also depressed by $21 million in costs from the layoff of around 100 staffers at Showtime and losses related to the Viacom station in New Orleans.

CBS President Leslie Moonves says he’s not worried about Fox’s move to launch a new network My Network TV. The new network will compete for both viewers and – importantly – station affiliates with The CW, which is being created from the ashes of CBS’ UPN and Time Warner’s WB.

"Nobody should underestimate Roger Ailes," Moonves says. But he noted that UPN and WB both struggled for years and still couldn't find financial success. It took "UPN 12 years and WB 12 years and they're better off together."

Asked if CBS was considering buying Univision, Moonves says that he looks at everything, but noted that restrictions on the ownership of TV and radio stations is a significant impediment because CBS already has such large groups in both sectors.

"We have major FCC issues," Moonves says, adding: "I don't think there's a media company in the world that isn't looking a Univision, but the regulatory issues are pretty extreme there."

That contrasts with Viacom, which posted a 16% revenue increase for the fourth quarter. Viacom and CBS split up at the beginning of the year into two separate companies, both still under Sumner Redstone.