Spanish web wins despite pricey World Cup soccer

Other factors in play boost Telecinco's bottom line

When Spanish captain Iker Casillas hoisted the World Cup into the air, you’d expect execs at Spain’s Telecinco to be equally tearful with joy.

Spain, if you didn’t know, won the monthlong soccer tournament July 11.

Telecinco broadcast Spain’s seven games. Three — against Honduras (12.7 million viewers), Germany (13.3 million) and the Netherlands final (13.4 million) — broke audience records for the channel.

So you’d expect Telecinco to be chanting “Oe, oe, oe” all the way to the bank after a month of raking in premium-priced advertising.

Not quite.

Telecinco has declined to break out its World Cup advertising results, but the market’s drawn its own conclusions: Even for Telecinco, as for other webs that consider the tourney a loss leader, the World Cup probably didn’t turn a direct profit.

That said, Telecinco picked up Spain’s matches for a comparative song — a reported €40 million ($50.2 million).

Spain’s progress to the final added some $20.1 million in FIFA World Cup match advertising, calculates Daniel Knapp, at Screen Digest.

Telecinco was able to increase prices to some late advertisers, adds Adrian Zunzunegui, at Iberian Equities.

Even so, in terms of match spot ads, Telecinco still lost anywhere from $6 million to $12.5 million, Zunzunegui estimates.

But the World Cup has had an indirect upside. One example: Telecinco built ad inventory during the tourney that can be spread out over the summer, which could help the web just about break even on its World Cup investment, Zunzunegui says.

But there are other factors in play that have improved Telecinco’s ad take.

True, Telecinco stock surged 14.1% to $10.2 in the week before the final.

But shares peaked at $15.5 April 9 when the market realized that most of the roughly $540 million in advertising coin freed up by the government ban on pubcaster RTVE booking ads, which began Jan. 1, was being channelled to the commercial broadcasters and not new media, as had been widely predicted.

Telecinco co-CEO Giuseppe Tringali announced April 28 that Telecinco had taken 40% of former RTVE advertising through March.

The Spanish government’s cash for clunkers scheme boosted car sales 39.5% year-on-year in the first quarter, allowing Telecinco to realize 30% year-on-year price increases in automobile ads in the second quarter. Hikes for ads in other sectors soon followed.

The key question now is how long Telecinco’s World Cup stock rally can last.

The cash for clunkers allowance was over at the end of June, the value added tax rose from 16% to 18% this month, and the market harbors major concerns about Spain’s private sector debt.

Knapp still forecasts Telecinco’s 2010 net ad revs will rise 23.2% on 2009’s $626.6 million.

“Advertisers haven’t got more money thanks to Spain winning the World Cup. They’ve merely shifted their spend, investing earlier in the year,” Knapp says.

But clearly, they’ve invested some of that coin in Telecino.

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