Scripps reports fourth-quarter 2018 results

Fri, March 01, 2019 by Carolyn Micheli

CINCINNATI – The E.W. Scripps Company (NASDAQ: SSP) today reported operating results for the fourth quarter of 2018.

Total revenue was $368 million compared to $262 million in fourth-quarter 2017.

Income from continuing operations was $36 million or 44 cents per share. Pre-tax costs for the current quarter included an $8.9 million non-cash write-off of our original program “Pickler & Ben” and $3.8 million of costs attributed to the Triton and Raycom acquisitions and the pending Cordillera TV station acquisition. In the prior-year quarter, income from continuing operations was $11.5 million or 16 cents per share. The 2017 quarter included a pre-tax gain on the investment in Katz of $5.4 million.

Business highlights
• In the fourth quarter:
• Scripps outperformed revenue guidance in both the Local and National Media divisions.
• The National Media segment more than doubled its segment profit sequentially, to $7 million.
• Scripps completed the sales of its radio stations. Total proceeds from the divestitures of its 34 radio stations were $83.5 million.
• Scripps closed on the acquisition of Triton, the leader in digital audio infrastructure and audience measurement, on Nov. 30.

• On Jan. 1, Scripps completed the acquisition of three television stations in Tallahassee, Florida, and Waco/Temple/Bryan, Texas, from Raycom Media.

• Scripps’ acquisition of 15 television stations in 10 local media markets from Cordillera Communications has been cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice and is expected to close early in the second quarter, pending Federal Communications Commission consent.

• In January, Scripps completed a new multi-year affiliation agreement with NBC.

• The company announced the Katz networks will relaunch the iconic trial coverage network Court TV in May.

• The next-generation national news network Newsy garnered a 196 percent increase in revenue in the fourth quarter and 144 percent for the year, driven mostly by higher revenue on its over-the-top distribution platforms.

• Looking ahead to 2019, Scripps expects about a 15 percent increase in the retransmission revenue we receive from cable, satellite and over-the-top television providers for the full year on an as-reported basis, excluding Cordillera. In addition, the number of total paid subscriber households remained flat in the most recent period for which there is full data.

Commenting on the business highlights, Scripps President and CEO Adam Symson said:

“Last year, the company made tremendous strides in its plan to improve short-term operating performance while positioning itself strategically for long-term growth. In terms of our five-point growth plan, we completed the reorganization of our company into consumer-focused Local and National Media divisions, reduced our corporate and division costs by more than $30 million, sold our 34 radio stations, and beat our financial results guidance across the board each quarter.

“We announced plans to acquire 18 television stations from Cordillera and Raycom, enhancing our durability and depth in key states and growing our reach to 21 percent of the United States. Upon the closing of the Cordillera transaction, we will own No.1 stations in a third of our local media markets.

“We maintained a balanced approach to allocating capital through the television station acquisitions and the addition of digital audio leader Triton to our portfolio of fast-growing National Media businesses combined with the initiation of a dividend and our accelerated share repurchase program.

“Looking ahead, we are focused on continuing to seek opportunities to bolster the durability and reach of our portfolio. Scripps also continues to grow its retransmission revenue and will benefit in less than a year from the reset of its Comcast contract on Dec. 31, 2019.

“We will continue to scale our national businesses by focusing on audience and revenue growth to drive greater future cash-flow contributions.

“Our management prioritizes near-term operating performance while maintaining our approach to long-term value creation. These were the goals of our plan, and we are pleased with our progress in executing it.”

Fourth-quarter operating results
Revenue was $368 million, an increase of 41 percent from the fourth quarter of 2017. Revenue from Triton, which was acquired on Nov. 30, 2018, was $3.3 million.

Costs and expenses for segments, shared services and corporate were $276 million, up from $227 million in the year-ago period, primarily driven by higher network programming fees.

Fourth-quarter 2018 results by segment compared to prior-period amounts were:

Local Media
Revenue from Local Media was $281 million, up 39 percent from the prior-year quarter.

Local Media broadcast time sales were up 51 percent, driven by political advertising revenue of $82 million. The political ad revenue caused some displacement of core advertising, contributing to its decline of 8.4 percent.

Retransmission revenue increased 23 percent to $77.9 million. The increase in retransmission revenues was due to contract renewals covering approximately 5 million subscribers as well as regular annual contractual rate increases.

Total segment expenses increased 16.4 percent to $183 million, primarily driven by increases in programming fees tied to network affiliation agreements and an $8.9 million non-cash write-off of our “Pickler & Ben” programming asset.

Segment profit was $98.7 million, compared to $45.4 million in the year-ago quarter.

National Media
Revenue from National Media was $85.5 million, up from $57.9 million in the prior-year period. Revenue from Triton, which was acquired on Nov. 30, was $3.3 million.

Expenses for National Media were $78.5 million, up from $55.3 million in the prior-year period. The increase is primarily driven by continued investment in Newsy and Stitcher.

Segment profit was $7 million, compared to $2.7 million in the 2017 quarter.

Financial condition
During the fourth quarter of 2018, we completed the sale of our radio business through four transactions totaling $83.5 million.

On Dec. 31, cash and cash equivalents totaled $107 million while total debt was $696 million.

The company repurchased about 123,000 shares for $2.1 million and also made dividend payments totaling $4 million during the fourth quarter.

Year-to-date results
The following comparisons are for the period ending Dec. 31, 2018:

In 2018, company revenue was $1.2 billion, which compares to revenue of $877 million in 2017. Retransmission and carriage revenue increased $44.7 million. Political advertising was $140 million in 2018 compared to $8.7 million in 2017. Revenue from Katz for the year-to-date period of 2018 was $186 million compared to $41 million for the one quarter we owned Katz in 2017. Katz was acquired on Oct. 2, 2017.

Costs and expenses for segments, shared services and corporate were $1 billion, an increase of $218 million, primarily driven by higher network programming fees and the acquisition of Katz.

Income from continuing operations was $56.1 million or 68 cents per share. Pre-tax costs for the current year included the non-cash write-off of “Pickler & Ben,” $8.9 million of restructuring charges and $4.1 million of acquisition and related integration costs. In the prior year, the loss from continuing operations was $12 million or 13 cents per share. Pre-tax activity in the 2017 period included a $35.7 million non-cash charge to write down goodwill and intangible assets at Cracked, a $2.4 million non-cash charge to interest expense to write off deferred costs associated with debt refinancing, $4.4 million of restructuring charges, and $11.6 million of other income associated with the gain on Scripps’ 5 percent interest in Katz, the sale of our newspaper syndication business and an adjustment to the purchase price earnout for Midroll Media.

In 2018, the loss from discontinued operations included non-cash charges of $25.9 million to write down the assets of our radio business to fair value.

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Conference call
The senior management of The E.W. Scripps Company will discuss the company’s fourth-quarter results during a telephone conference call at 9:30 a.m. Eastern today. To access the live webcast, visit http://ir.scripps.com and find the link under “upcoming events.”

To access the conference call by telephone, dial (800) 230-1059 (U.S.) or (612) 288-0337 (international) approximately five minutes before the start of the call. Investors and analysts will need the name of the call (“Scripps earnings call”) to be granted access. Callers also will be asked to provide their name and company affiliation. The public is granted access to the conference call on a listen-only basis.

A replay line will be open from 11:30 a.m. Eastern time March 1 until 11:59 p.m. March 8. The domestic number to access the replay is (800) 475-6701 and the international number is (320) 365-3844. The access code for both numbers is 462637.

A replay of the conference call will be archived and available online for an extended period of time following the call. To access the audio replay, visit http://ir.scripps.com approximately four hours after the call, and the link can be found on that page under “audio/video links.”

Forward-looking statements
This document contains certain forward-looking statements related to the company’s businesses that are based on management’s current expectations. Forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks, trends and uncertainties, including changes in advertising demand and other economic conditions that could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations expressed in forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements are made as of the date of this document and should be evaluated with the understanding of their inherent uncertainty. A detailed discussion of principal risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results and events to differ materially from such forward-looking statements is included in the company’s Form 10-K on file with the SEC in the section titled “Risk Factors.” The company undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date the statement is made.

About Scripps
The E.W. Scripps Company (NASDAQ: SSP) serves audiences and businesses through a growing portfolio of local and national media brands. With 36 television stations, Scripps is one of the nation’s largest independent TV station owners. Scripps runs a collection of national journalism and content businesses, including Newsy, the next-generation national news network; podcast industry leader Stitcher; the fast-growing national broadcast networks Bounce, Grit, Escape and Laff; and Triton, the global leader in digital audio technology and measurement services. Scripps produces original programming including “Pickler & Ben,” runs an award-winning investigative reporting newsroom in Washington, D.C., and is the longtime steward of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Founded in 1878, Scripps has held for decades to the motto, “Give light and the people will find their own way.”

Investor contact:
Carolyn Micheli, The E.W. Scripps Company, 513-977-3732, Carolyn.micheli@scripps.com

Media contact:
Kari Wethington, The E.W. Scripps Company, 513-977-3763, Kari.wethington@scripps.com

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