Scripps 4Q Station Revenue Up 43%
E.W. Scripps Co.’s Local Media division (its TV stations and local brands on all platforms) today reported revenue for the fourth quarter of 2020 of $473 million, up 43% from the prior-year quarter.
That revenue comprised:
- Core advertising revenue decreased 8.9% to $181 million due to political advertising displacement and weakened economic conditions, reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on advertiser spending.
- Political revenue was $138 million during this election year, compared to $15.2 million in the prior-year quarter.
- Retransmission revenue increased 36% to $15.2 million. Scripps renegotiated three large retransmission consent contracts in 2020 and received new rates on another beginning Dec. 31, 2019.
Total segment expenses increased 9.5% to $274 million, primarily driven by contractual rate increases in network affiliation agreements.
Segment profit was $199 million, compared to $79.7 million in the year-ago quarter.
Revenue from National Media was $117 million, up from $91.7 million in the prior-year quarter.
Expenses for National Media were $94.7 million, up from $80 million in the prior-year quarter, reflecting cost increases directly attributed to revenue growth in the National Media businesses. Segment profit was $22.7 million, compared to $11.8 million in the 2019 quarter.
For the company as a whole, total revenue was $591 million, up 40% from $423 million in 4Q 2019. Beginning in the second quarter of 2020, Scripps’ Stitcher business was classified as discontinued operations in its consolidated financial statements. All periods have been adjusted to reflect this presentation. The Stitcher sale closed on Oct. 16.
Income from continuing operations was $114 million or $1.35 per share. The current-year quarter included gains from the sale of WPIX New York totaling $6.5 million and $2.6 million of acquisition and related integration costs. These items increased income from continuing operations by $2.9 million, net of taxes, or 4 cents per share.
In the prior-year quarter, income from continuing operations was $12.9 million or 16 cents per share. Pre-tax costs for the prior-year quarter included $3.3 million of acquisition and related integration costs that decreased income from continuing operations by $2.5 million, net of taxes, or 3 cents per share.
Commenting on the quarter’s results, Scripps President-CEO Adam Symson said: “Having completed the acquisition of ION in early January, Scripps is now a full-scale television company and the largest holder of broadcast spectrum in the country. Our new Scripps Networks division is made up of seven powerful TV networks that each reaches nearly every American, through free over-the-air television, over the top platforms and on cable and satellite, to deliver advertisers a large, sought-after audience they often can’t find anywhere else.
“Our Local Media brands have deep, long-standing relationships with audiences and advertisers in their communities. This business has strong and durable revenue streams through core advertising, political advertising and retransmission revenue.
“Several years of work set us up for continued significant value creation – acquiring high-performing local television stations to double the scale of our portfolio; selling non-core assets including terrestrial radio, Stitcher and Triton, for high returns; investing in the national media marketplace; restructuring the company and taking considerable cost out of the enterprise.
“In 2020, we were able to deliver much higher free cash flow than we expected, due to our firm financial footing, with economically durable businesses that exceeded the expectations set before the pandemic began. Our expanded local station footprint helped us realize new value in retransmission rate resets as well as political advertising revenue opportunity, and our national businesses led their industries with double-digit revenue growth for the year and significant margin expansion for the division.
“We move forward now as a high-free-cash flow television company with two highly profitable operating divisions that position us to create significant value today and capture even greater value as a leader in the future of television.”
Read the company’s report here.