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Tribune Media First Quarter Revenue Up 6%

Tribune Media reported consolidated operating revenues of $472.7 million in the first quarter, a 6% increase over the first quarter of 2014, driven by acquisition-related growth in the digital and data segment and increases in the television and entertainment division. Consolidated operating profit grew 21% as compared to the first quarter of 2014, to $60.9 million.

Television and entertainment segment revenues were $410.3 million in the first quarter, compared to $400.2 million in the first quarter of 2014, an increase of 2.5%. Advertising revenues stood at $299.7 million, down 2% from the first quarter of 2014. Core advertising declined 2.1% for Tribune, primarily as a result of the most recent Super Bowl airing on NBC, while the previous year’s game had been on Fox; Tribune has 14 Fox affiliates.  

"We generated top-line line growth in the first quarter and made progress against many of our key strategic objectives," said Peter Liguori, Tribune Media president and chief executive officer. "First, we grew revenue market share across our stations, including, most importantly, our four largest markets. WGN America successfully continued its conversion from a superstation to a cable network and the network is telecast as a cable entity to 60% of our subscriber base, while generating a 52% increase in carriage revenues this quarter. Finally, the on-going expansion of our Digital and Data business yielded increased revenue and Adjusted EBITDA growth."

Television and entertainment adjusted EBITDA for the first quarter was $135 million, down from the $139.7 million posted in the first quarter of 2014.

Station retransmission consent fees were up 24%, at $68.8 million in the first quarter.

Carriage fees of $21.5 million were a 52% increase over the previous year’s first quarter, thanks to higher rates for WGN America distribution.

Tribune’s digital and data segment revenues in the first quarter were $50.2 million, compared to $31.5 million in the first quarter of 2014, an increase of $18.7 million. This was primarily attributable to the impact of the acquisition of Gracenote, which was consummated Jan. 31, 2014, and the acquisitions of HWW, Baseline and What's ON, which closed in the second half of 2014.

Digital and data adjusted EBITDA was $12.5 million in the first quarter, compared to $5 million in the first quarter of 2014.

Tribune forecasts full year net revenues of $2 billion to $2.03 billion, with the television and entertainment segment pitching in $1.75 billion to $1.77 billion. Tribune calls for core advertising to up be in the low to mid-single digits compared to the whole of 2014.

Tribune Co. split into Tribune Media and Tribune Publishing in August.

"Our results in the first quarter and our outlook for the remainder of the year give us confidence that we are on track to achieve our revenue and adjusted EBITDA guidance for the full year,” said Liguori.

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.