HGTV, Food Net serves up profits for Scripps

Co. credits gains to ad revenues

Scripps’ cable nets Home & Garden TV and Food Network were once again the earnings workhorses for the publishing-broadcast firm, which on Tuesday reported second-quarter net income up a hefty 34% over last year’s 2Q to $86.4 million on total sales of $547 million.

The Cincinnati-based company credited the gains to the networks division’s huge 56% year-over-year profit boost to $87.5 million driven largely by a 35% ad revenue gain to $157 million.

Group also benefited from a 44% jump in affiliate fee revenues to $33.6 million. Total sales at Scripps Networks, which also includes Fine Living and DIY — Do-It-Yourself cable channels — were up 36% to $193 million.

Speaking to analysts in conference call on Thursday, prexy and CEO Kenneth Lowe said “the sustained period of rapid growth” at its flagship lifestyle cable nets shows “no signs of letting up.”

Looking forward, company anticipates another 35% ad revenue increase for the third quarter at its network group, along with a 40% increase in affiliate fees compared to last year.

Company noted that 10-year-old HGTV posted a 1.0 primetime rating during June, with an average 832,000 nightly primetime viewers. At the Food Network, primetime viewership was up 20% year-over-year.

Scripps said its 15 broadcast TV stations were major beneficiaries of earlier and heavier-than usual political ad spending. “Political revenue in the last quarter was three times the amount recorded at the same point during the last presidential election,” Lowe noted.

Political ad revenues at Scripps stations reached $6.2 million during the second quarter; by contrast, the same period during the 2000 presidential election year generated only $2.2 million.

Overall, company’s broadcast TV profits managed a healthy 15% improvement over the same three-month period a year ago, off revenues up 11% to $87.4 million.

Lowe also said local and national broadcast advertising continued to trend upward during the quarter “due to a stronger TV ad market and success of our ad sales team in developing new biz in local markets.”

At the same time, Scripps 21 daily newspapers saw revenues rise barely 1% to $175 million amid an industry-wide ad sales stalemate.

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