Astral on a roll with HD broadcasts

Co. offers HD versions of Movie Network, Mpi

TORONTO — Canada’s Astral Media is continuing its push into high-definition broadcasts, betting that subscribers and ad revenue will follow.

While discussing boffo second-quarter numbers, released Wednesday, Astral brass announced that the company will continue to roll out its HD broadcasts. Astral already offers an HD version of the Movie Network and Mpix, and an HD version of Super Ecran is around the corner.

Astral Media operates 10 specialty TV channels and six pay channels, including the Movie Network and Teletoon. It also owns radio stations in the provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and an outdoor advertising division.

The company carries no debt, and for the second quarter ended Feb. 28 posted earnings and revenue up 11% to C$22.5 million ($19.6 million) and 10% to $120.5 million respectively.

The TV division saw an 8% climb in subscriber revenue and a 15% jump in ad revenue, making for an overall increase of 9% to $90.3 million for the division. Radio revenue, at $22.2 million, was up 7% in spite of higher music royalty fees, and outdoor advertising leapt 26% to $8.1 million.

Earnings for the first half of the year were down 15% from a year ago at $33 million on revenue of $254.6 million, up 10%.