Tribune Media reported consolidated operating revenue of $488.6 million in the third quarter, a 3% increase over the same quarter last year. Excluding political revenues, consolidated operating revenue grew 7%. Television and Entertainment segment revenue grew 3%, driven by increased core advertising and carriage and retransmission consent fees.
Tribune’s consolidated operating profit decreased 30% to $38.8 million.
Its 42 TV stations saw a 20% increase in retransmission fees in the quarter, while cable net WGN America’s carriage fees went up 39%. Entertainment net WGN America reaches 73 million U.S. households.
Digital and data revenue grew 7% thanks primarily to acquisitions, including HWW and Baseline.
"Our solid third quarter results reflect the consistent focus we have on our long-term growth strategies," said Peter Liguori, Tribune Media president and CEO. "We delivered growth across all our key revenue streams--advertising, carriage fees and retransmission fees--and converted WGN America to a basic cable network 18 months ahead of our initial schedule."
"We see clear and compelling evidence that sports and news programming, especially in major markets, continues to accelerate the growth of our local station business,” he continued. “Our investment in high-quality original content is driving revenue growth now via increased carriage fees for WGN America and is expected to do so in the future through a series of distribution platforms.
Tribune forecasts mid-single digits revenue growth in the fourth quarter. Said Liguori: “Looking to the future, we are confident that we have the right strategies in place to continue to deliver strong operating results as well as return long-term sustainable value to our shareholders."
Trib's original programming strategy on WGN America dominated the Q&A portion of the conference call. WGN America has launched the series Salem and Manhattan, while Outsiders and Underground are forthcoming. "We're looking at a situation where we need to have enough original programming to keep the brand growing, keep the audience growing and maintain value for advertisers and affiliates," said Liguori, who noted that new carriage deals will bring the channel to 80 million U.S. households.
Liguori said Tribune Media is "fast approaching critical mass," in terms of having enough originals for the "financial progress and branding progress" of WGN America.
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