Tegna reported higher fourth-quarter profits as it took in record political advertising sales and increased its subscription revenue despite a lengthy blackout battle with DirecTV.
Net income was $244.3 million, or $1.11 a share, compared to $84 million or 38 cents a share, a year ago.
Revenue rose 35% to $938 million, with record political advertising and an increase in subscription revenue.
Fourth-quarter political ad revenue was $264 million, including $50 resulting from the Georgia Senate runoffs. The total was up 89% from the 2018 midterm elections.
Excluding political, fourth quarter revenue was up slightly from last year.
Subscription revenue was up 9% to $314 million. Tegna said subscription revenue would have been up 17% if it weren’t for the three-week blackout with AT&T’s DirecTV that ended in late December.
Tegna said its Premion over-the-top advertising business, finished the year with revenues of more than $145 million, up 40% from to 2019. Tegna said it expects similar growth in 2021.
For the first quarter of 2021, the company expects revenue to be up by mid-single digits and operating expenses, excluding programming, to be up in the low single-digits.
In January, the company said that for the full year, it expects subscription revenue to be up in the mid- to high-teens and free cash flow to be 20.5% to 21.5% of revenue.
"Tegna had an exceptional year of growth and innovation,” said CEO Dave Lougee. “The resiliency of our business model and continued execution of our five-pillar strategy positioned us for success regardless of the broader economic backdrop."
Lougee noted that Tegna renewed its largest network affiliation agreement in January with NBC and repriced approximately 35% of its subscribers last year and will reprice approximately 30% toward the end of this year.
"Looking to 2021, the full-year 2021 guidance we provided in early January and the incremental first quarter 2021 guidance we are providing today reflect our expectation for continued strength of our operations, visibility into our future cash flows, and continued commitment to prudent expense management,” Lougee said.
“We will continue to execute and innovate to drive advertising and marketing services revenues, and we expect to see continued improvement in underlying advertising trends following the impact of the global pandemic, “ he said.
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