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E.W. Scripps Posts Fourth Quarter Profit on Retrans, Politics

E.W. Scripps swung to a profit in the fourth quarter, as retrans and political advertising boosted revenues.

Net income was $38.3 million, or 46 cents a share, compared to a loss of $21.5 million, or 25 cents a share a year ago.

Revenue rose 33% to $273 million.

The company said election-year political advertising was $56 million, up from 2 million last year, and digital revenue grew 42%.

For the year, retransmission revenue rose 62% to $221 million, and, including some recently renewed contracts with distributors, retransmission revenue is expected to increase by 20% in 2017.

“Our broadcast television division delivered record revenue in 2016, despite the headwinds of an uncommon presidential election combined with the short-term absence of some advertisers who avoided jockeying with political campaigns for airtime,” said CEO Rich Boehne. “While the presidential race spending did not rise to the level we had expected, we were encouraged by the strong spending levels for U.S. Senate and House races in our markets.

“Looking ahead now to the 2018 mid-term election, we are focused on 10 Senate seats up for grabs in our footprint as well as a meaningful gubernatorial year, with 16 governors’ races across the Scripps markets,” Boehne said.

The company said it expects TV revenue to be down in the mid-single digits next year, despite the big gain in retrans.

Profits for Scripps’ TV division were $96 million in the quarter, more than double $41 million a year ago.

Revenues were up 37% to $233 million.

Local advertising revenue was down 11.3% to $80 million, national advertising was down 13.5% to $32.8 million, offsetting the gain in political advertising, which the company said displaced some of its core advertising.

Retransmission revenues were up 69% to $60.5 million in the quarter.

“In our TV division, we are seeing success through our original programming strategy," said Boehne. "Our infotainment-news program The List continues to pull strong ratings as the 17th highest rated show in syndication. The List can now be enjoyed in 45 markets covering 28% of the nationwide audience – 32 million U.S. television households. Our viral videos show RightThisMinute reaches most of the country today and continues to see significant ratings growth and profitability as it heads into its seventh season.”

Digital revenue was $18.8 million, up 42%. Excluding the acquisition of Cracked, revenue was up 30%.

“In our digital reporting segment, over-the-top video news network Newsy is rapidly expanding its distribution and viewership,” Boehne said. “As of the fourth quarter, OTT video delivery platforms make up the majority of Newsy’s revenue stream. Newsy continues to move away from syndication services and is working to establish itself as the news network of choice for millennials looking for thoughtfulness, context and objectivity.

Mary McCabe Peirce, 68, a great-granddaughter of the company’s founder, will retire from the company’s board of directors when her term expires in May, the company said. Peirce has served as a director since 2008.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.