Scripps Earnings Jump on Political Advertising

Political advertising and TV station acquisitions helped push E.W. Scripps Co.'s earnings higher in the fourth quarter.

Net income nearly doubled to $15.7 million, or 27 cents a share in the fourth quarter, from $7.9 million, or 14 cents a year ago.

Revenues rose 11% to $246 million during the quarter.

The company is in the process of completing the acquisition of Journal Communications' broadcast properties, while spinning off their newspapers. The transaction will make Scripps the fifth-largest independent broadcaster.

The company's television division rang up a $56.3 million profit in the quarter, up 67% from $33.8 million a year ago.

Fourth quarter television operating revenues were up 28% to $147 million. The company said that the increase was driven by $32.6 million in political advertising, incremental revenue from two stations acquired from Granite earlier in the year and a 41% increase in retransmission revenue to $15.8 million.

In addition to political advertising, local TV ad revenue was down 1% to $62.3 million, national was down 8.3% to $29 million and digital advertising revenue was up 24% to 45.9 million.
On a same-station basis, total revenue increased 22% and costs and expenses increased 4.8%, the company said.

"Political advertising revenue was the catalyst for our strong television division revenue growth in the fourth quarter, contributing nearly $33 million. Although it displaced many of our core TV advertisers, the political ad surge helped drive a 28% jump over fourth quarter of 2013. Retransmission revenue was another big contributor to our quarterly performance," Scripps CEO Rich Boehne said in a statement.

"Also in the fourth quarter, we completed contract negotiations with ABC covering 10 television stations from 2015 through 2019. We have a long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship with ABC, and all sides will benefit from the outcome of this agreement, which includes an enhanced partnership in Watch ABC, the network's over-the-top TV service," Boehne added.
With the Journal transaction pending, Scripps did not provide earnings guidance for 2015.

"Finally, we are moving rapidly to close our transactions with Journal Communications after receiving clearance from the Securities and Exchange Commission last month. These transactions will create pure-play broadcast and newspaper companies able to fully focus on their industry opportunities. Following the shareholder votes on March 11, we hope to move smoothly to an early second-quarter close," Boehne said.

Jon Lafayette

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.