In Disney’s fiscal second quarter, broadcasting revenues increased 49% to $2.8 billion, largely due to the consolidation of assets acquired from 21st Century Fox, but also due to gains at the legacy broadcasting operations. In addition to the previously mentioned ad sales gain, ABC also benefitted from higher affiliate revenue (retrans for the O&O stations and network reverse-comp). But things are much more complicated in this current quarter.
With Comcast out of the bidding war, Disney is planning to move forward with its $71.3 billion purchase of Fox’s entertainment assets, in part to boost a Disney-branded streaming service set to launch in late 2019. Disney is building the streaming service as more people switch from traditional cable TV bundles to streaming online though services like Amazon and Netflix.
“it just didn’t make sense for us to participate because we make so much more money by broadcasting in the highest standards possible,” COO Joe Ianniello tells securities analysts and investors.
Summarizing the pros and cons for OTT distribution, Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen said there is a danger that the pay-TV ecosystem could be “chopped up” into a paradigm that is “truly an à la carte experience.”
The big question for CBS is whether — or, more likely, when — it will merge with Viacom. And CEO Les Moonves provided the safe answer to analysts in his quarterly earnings call. “If it looks right and is structured properly, it could be an attractive opportunity,” he says. But “we will only do a deal if it’s in the best interests of CBS and its shareholders.”
In its earnings call today, CFO Jim Ryan offered no specific reason for the poor April, in which both local and national were down, but said business is rebounding in May and June.
The Sinclair CEO says the uncertainty surrounding the regulatory environment is making it tough on broadcasters. Congress and the courts need to supply some answers to disputes over shared service agreements and the FCC’s ownership cap. Also on the top of his to-do list is creating a next-generation broadcast TV standard that will let stations “be everywhere 24 hours a day, 365 on every device.”
“We are looking aggressively at partners and deals and will make sure we do our absolute best to keep our leverage in mind,” Gray Television chief Hilton Howell says. “The company is simply not for sale.”
CBS’s Leslie Moonves unofficially opened the annual upfront haggle Wednesday by declaring CBS should be able to secure hikes for ad time prices that could be at least as high as 10%.
Investment fund manager Mario Gabelli says the company has received a bid of “$40 or better” and he wants to know why the board of directors isn’t telling shareholders.
Gray Television COO Bob Prather says his company is looking for 3Q revenues to be up 28% to 31%. Excluding political, local is expected to be up 6% to 8% and national 6% to 7%. Also in 3Q, Gray is on track to book $4.8 million in Olympics-related advertising on its NBC stations, up from $3.4 million for the 2008 Summer Games.
Vince Sadusky tells analysts that with automotive back to accounting for a pre-recession level of 26% of its revenue, “from where we sit, we view the auto industry as being healthier than it’s been in a long, long time” and sees it continuing. In addition, the company says to expect 3Q revenues to be up 26% to 33% from the year-ago mark of $97.8 million.
During today’s earnings conference call with analysts, CEO Vincent Sadusky extolls the value of having a strong local emphasis. He also predicts 2012 “will be a year of significant M&A in the industry.”
Strong fourth quarter 2011 performance looks to continue into this year. The company says it will stay focused on paying down debt and upgrading technology rather than actively looking for acqusitions.
By replacing some syndicated programs with shows it effectively owns, Scripps could theoretically reduce programming costs and boost revenues while exploiting locally generated revenues.
CEO David Smith says: “There’s a fundamental disagreement between the Democrats and Republicans” over spectrum auction legislation and he sees no action likely in three-to-five years. He and other execs at the company say this year is shaping up to be a record on-year for political revenues at Sinclair and they have great expectations for the role super PACs will play.
In its earnings call Thursday, company execs say they are hoping to modify the agreements for its $658 million in debt. If it can’t successfully renegotiate the covenants, Media General could be at risk of bankruptcy. It’s a threat that some analysts have been discussing quietly since last year.
During the earnings call following today’s announcement of third-quarter results, CEO Marshall Morton fielded questions on the media company’s loan covenants and refinancing options. One bright spot is that its retrans revenues for the quarter were up 9.3% and Morton noted that the company hopes to conclude negotiations with NBC on a proxy agreement for retrans negotiatons early next month.
The Nexstar CEO tells analysts the third quarter looks good for auto advertising, continuing growth in mobile and Internet-based revenues. He also says retrans negotiations are underway with Fox and NBC and “no network … has asked for more than 50%.”
With no debt and nearly $160 million in cash at the end of the quarter, Scripps is well situated should it decide to boost its 10-station portfolio, but executives say any future acquisitions would have to generate a “strong cash return.”
The TV group’s management says eventually it will look to add stations, but for now it’s focusing on dealing with its roughly $830 million in debt and lowering its debt to cash flow ratio.
In the station group’s earnings call with analysts today, management says they’re in a prime position to take advantage of all the stations now on the block.Said David Amy, Sinclair EVP-CFO: “There’s nothing we have to go out and purchase.… We can be very selective. If the price make sense for us, we can deal.”
Digital’s the fastest growing segment of LIN’s business but it comes with increased expenses. Another big push for the company is mobile DTV.
Nexstar Broadcasting CEO Perry Sook is pleased with his company’s reduced debt-to-cash ratio and says that the lower leverage coupled with easing credit markets could put Nexstar in the hunt for strategic acquisitions.
After a record fourth quarter, the station group is focused on paying down debt in anticipation of the seven Young stations it’s managing going on the market. “If it’s possible to acquire them at a reasonable price without increasing leverage, that’s something we’d be interested in,” said Gray President Robert Prather.
In today’s call with analysts, CFO Tim Stautberg says retransmission consent revenue “will move the needle for us in 2011.” But at the same time, new affiliation deals will take some of that increase.
An improving economy has resulted in robust cash flow growth and margins and has led to the group owner considering buying stations again in addition to reinstating quarterly dividends.
In today’s earnings call, execs highlight the strong contributions from broadcasting in the fourth quarter and see positive signs in retrans and low singlt-digit gains in ad revenue in this year’s first quarter.