Tegna Sees All Categories Pacing Up In 2Q
As the company had promised in its previous quarterly conference call, non-political revenues turned positive in the first quarter of 2021. Record Advertising and Marketing Services (AMS) revenues, which includes the Premion OTT digital ad sales business, rose 9.4% to $387. Absent Premion, President-CEO Dave Lougee told analysts this morning that core advertising was down just slightly, with large markets performing better than smaller ones.
“We continue to see recovery in non-political advertising in many categories,” EVP-CFO Victoria Harker reported. She said most categories were up over last year in the first quarter: “Auto services, health care, home improvement, entertainment, gambling, insurance, banking and finance, packaged goods and education. Automotive, our largest ad category, improved significantly — up low double-digits relative to last year.
“Not surprisingly, the advertising categories that continued to struggle were retail, restaurants, travel and tourism, given the ongoing impact of COVID. That said, with vaccination levels increasing across the country, we look forward to these categories continuing to improve over the balance of the year,” she detailed for the analysts.
“In addition to these positive first quarter trends, advertising improvement is continuing apace in the second quarter as well, with AMS pacing significantly positive to last year — with all categories up year-over-year. In the second quarter of 2020, advertising was particularly challenged, given the pandemic and businesses being shut down across the country. That said, we expect second quarter AMS to be up low single digits relative to the second quarter of 2019, pro forma,” Harker said.
Asked about the auto category, Lougee said he was pleased with Tegna’s strong performance, with large markets doing better as the car companies promote for the eventual elimination of supply-chain problems — while smaller markets are more dependent on local dealer advertising. “When inventory catches up with supply, they know they’re going to be in a good position,” Lougee said of the automakers.
Regarding the recent round of new NFL deals, Lougee said he wasn’t upset about the end of Thursday Night Football on broadcast, since it knocked out a lot of news inventory for local stations, particularly in the western time zones. “Obviously the issue of having simulcasts of the afternoon and Sunday night football games [on streaming services] is not something that we’re entirely thrilled about. Although that’s not entirely new. The games have been on the NFL and Verizon apps and stuff like that — so this is not entirely new,” Lougee told an analyst.
“To your question, it is part of the value consideration and exchange with the networks on reverse compensation. I can tell you, when we did our NBC deal at the end of the year, that was taken into account. Even though it had not been announced, we were sure it was coming relative to Peacock. It just gets merged into the economic relationship between the affiliates and the networks. That’s why it’s important to have scale, like we do,” Lougee said.