The E.W. Scripps Company today reported operating results that reflect an expected decline in political advertising and an increase in expenses to grow its digital operations.
"Following record-setting profit performance in 2012, we launched into 2013 determined to substantially upgrade our digital revenue platforms, launch a series of new local digital products, and rebuild our newspaper business models around bundled subscriptions for digital and print audiences," said Rich Boehne, president, chairman and CEO.
"In the first quarter, which is our seasonally smallest revenue period, results were complicated by an expected absence of political advertising and difficult-to-predict advertising patterns coming out of 2012. These tough year-over-year revenue comparisons caused by cyclical political advertising will continue through the balance of 2013.
"Audience performance in our television division remains strong, with 10 of our stations expanding their valuable local news ratings in the February period. Two of those stations - in Phoenix and Denver - delivered larger audiences through outstanding journalism that was recognized with coveted Peabody awards.
"In newspaper markets, we have begun converting audiences to bundled subscriptions for news products that demonstrate the value of the services we provide on smartphones, tablets, desktops and laptops, in addition to the printed page. The early results are encouraging, and we anticipate converting 11 of our 13 newspaper markets this quarter.
"The acceleration of our digital operations, led by the deployment of focused digital advertising sales forces across the country, continues unabated. Where we have the new sales structure in place in the television division, digital revenue growth is substantially higher than the 23 percent we reported across the group in the first quarter. The local sales force expansion, along with the release of new and upgraded locally branded products, will continue this year.”
Consolidated revenues were $198.7 million, down 4.1 percent or $8.5 million. More than half of the decline was due to the near-absence of political advertising revenue in 2013.
Costs and expenses for segments, shared services and corporate were $187.6 million, which represents a 1.1 percent decline year over year. Excluding the costs to grow our digital operations, costs and expenses declined 2.7 percent.
The Company reported a loss from operations before income taxes of $7.6 million in the first quarter of 2013 compared with a loss of $7.4 million in the first quarter of 2012. The prior-year quarter included acquisition-integration costs of $5.8 million, primarily a non-cash charge to terminate an agreement with the previous national sales representation firm of the acquired stations.
The loss from operations, net of tax, was $2.7 million, or 5 cents per share, in the 2013 quarter, compared with a loss from operations, net of tax, of $4.4 million, or 8 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter (2 cents per share excluding the non-cash charge).
First-quarter results by segment are as follows:
Revenue from television stations in the first quarter was $96.9 million, down $2.7 million from the first quarter of 2012. Increases in retransmission fees and digital and national advertising were not enough to offset expected declines in political and in local advertising. The first quarter of 2012 included $5.5 million of political and Super Bowl-related advertising.
Advertising revenue broken down by category was:
- Local, down 4.9 percent to $53.7 million
- National, up 4.6 percent to $26.9 million
- Political, $0.3 million compared to $4.7 million in the 2012 quarter
Digital revenue in the first quarter increased 23 percent to $3.8 million.
Revenue from retransmission consent agreements increased 35 percent to $10.4 million, primarily driven by rate increases in existing agreements.
Expenses for the TV station group declined 1.6 percent to $80.4 million, primarily due to lower syndicated programming costs.
The television division’s segment profit in the first quarter was $16.5 million, compared to $17.9 million in the year-ago period. (See Note 2 in the attached financial information for a definition of segment profit.)
Total revenue from newspapers in the first quarter was $99.5 million, down 4.7 percent from the first quarter of 2012.
Advertising and marketing services revenue, at $63.3 million, was down 5.1 percent compared with the year-ago quarter.
Advertising and marketing services revenue broken down by category was:
- Classified, down 9.6 percent to $18.2 million
- Real Estate – down 1.6 percent
- Employment – down 20.4 percent
- Automotive – down 8.3 percent
- Local, down 0.3 percent to $20.3 million
- Preprint and other, down 6.1 percent to $16.3 million
- National, down 21.0 percent to $1.9 million
- Digital, up 2.7 percent, to $6.7 million. Pure-play digital revenue increased 13 percent over the year-ago quarter.
Subscription revenue decreased 3.6 percent to $30.5 million.
Total segment expenses decreased 3.8 percent to $93.6 million. Employee costs decreased 4.9 percent, primarily due to lower employment levels. Newsprint expense decreased 7.9 percent, due to lower volume and lower price.
First-quarter segment profit in the newspaper division decreased 17.1 percent to $5.9 million from $7.2 million in the first quarter of 2012.
Syndication and other
The “syndication and other” category of the Company’s financial statements includes syndication of news features and comics and other features for the newspaper industry.
Revenue was $2.3 million in the first quarter of 2013 compared to $3.2 million in the same period a year ago. Segment profit was $0.5 million in the first quarter of 2013 compared to $0.8 million in the first quarter of 2012.
Shared services and corporate
The “shared services and corporate” category of the Company’s financial statements includes certain incremental investments in hiring and developing digital-only sales personnel, streamlining the digital sales process, and creating digital content.
Shared services and corporate expenses were $11.8 million, an increase of $3.4 million or 40 percent from $8.5 million in the first quarter of 2012. The costs to grow our digital operations totaled $2.9 million in the first quarter.
Through the end of April, we hired 35 digital-only sales people and plan to add a total of 100 by year end.
Cash and cash equivalents totaled $221 million at March 31, 2013, down $21 million since year end, while total debt was $192 million. We repurchased 942,000 shares for $10.6 million in the first quarter.
For year-over-year performance of key metrics in the second quarter of 2013, management expects:
- Television revenues to be down low-single digits (up mid-single digits excluding political; prior-year period includes $11 million of political advertising)
- Television expenses to be about flat
- Newspaper revenues and expenses to be down in the low-single digits, with the decline in expenses to be greater than the decline in revenues
- Expenses for shared services and corporate to be approximately $15 million
For the full year of 2013, the Company expects:
- Television revenues to be down about 10 percent due to the political off-year
- Television expenses to be about flat
- Newspaper revenues and expenses to decline at a low-single-digit rate, with the decline in expenses being greater than the decline in revenue
- Depreciation and amortization to be approximately $50 million
- Capital expenditures to be approximately $25 million
- Expenses for shared services and corporate to be about $60 million