The numbers are OK, but investors may be cranky: This is the third time in a row that Discovery Communications‘ earnings have fallen short of the Street’s projections. The company reported Q1 net income of $231M, +3.6% vs the period last year, on revenues of $1.16B, +6.5%. The top line is a little ahead of the $1.15B that analysts anticipated. But earnings at 64 cents a share are a penny shy of the consensus forecast. Revenues for the U.S. networks were up just 1% to $686M. The segment suffered in comparison to last year when it benefited from a slug of cash from streaming services. Distribution revenues were down 9% year-over-year. Yet many may be surprised to see ad sales up 8%; some analysts expected to see a number closer to 10%. All told, the adjusted cash flow for the U.S. networks fell 5% to $377M. International was a different story with revenues up 17% to $444M, and adjusted cash flow +8% to $184M. Discovery projects that it will end this year with as much as $5.7B in revenue and as much as $1.3B in net income available to shareholders. READ MORE »
With CEO David Zaslav in Cannes for a Mip-TV keynote this evening, Discovery says it has finalized its acquisition of the SBS Nordic operations of Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1. The deal expands Discovery’s footprint in Europe, giving it 12 new TV networks and 19 radio stations in the Nordic countries. The new business, combined with Discovery’s existing brands in the region, will be called SBS Discovery Media with Henrik Ravn as president and managing director. Click over for the press release which has details of the deal that’s part of a current culture of increased media M&A activity in Europe:
Sharks used to be the big stars for Discovery Communications. But the company’s upfront presentation in New York included a varied lineup of celebs with Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Mariel Hemingway, Morgan Freeman, William Hurt, LaToya Jackson, NASCAR’s Jeff …
Silver Spring, Md. – Whether exhibiting human-like behavior or living an existence so foreign it is fascinating, the animal kingdom has the power to mesmerize. Today, Discovery Communications announces the debut of Animal Planet L!VE, featuring unfiltered, round-the-clock access to the compelling worlds of the beautiful, cute and misunderstood. The 24/7 digital experience builds on Discovery Communications’ long-standing success with live animal cams, including Penguin Cam and Shark Cam, and acts as a digital complement to Animal Planet and its on-air programming.
The slight decline was due to the quirky way corporations value option awards; everything else was up for the Discovery Communications CEO in a year when the company stock was up 51.1%. The proxy just filed at the SEC shows David Zaslav‘s package consisted of $3M salary, $25.3M in stock awards, $15.8M in option awards, $5.3M in non-equity incentives, and $432,986 in other compensation. The “other” category includes personal aircraft use, a $16,800 car allowance, $11,083 in home office expenses, and $23,245 for personal security during overseas travel. Zaslav led Deadline’s list last year of CEOs whose pay was most out of whack with other executives, and this year’s package is sure to return him to that list. He made 13.4 times more than the median pay for the next four highest paid executives, well above the threshold (three times the median) that leads corporate governance watchdogs to wonder whether the chief executive wields too much power. Indeed, Zaslav’s pay accounted for a whopping 76% of the pie for Discovery’s top management.
Discovery Communications and Hasbro have poached Disney Channel/Disney XD executive Nikki Reed as head of programming for their joint venture, rival children’s cable network The Hub, which is looking to expand into live-action programming. Reed, named SVP Programming & Development for The Hub, replaces Donna Ebbs, who served as the first programming chief for The Hub since its October 2010 launch. Ebbs is now transitioning to a consultant and executive producer role. “Our goal is to utilize my relationships with writers, producers and talent to grow The Hub’s existing slate of programming and enhance it with more live-action series,” said Reed, who reports to The Hub president and CEO Margaret Loesch. Hub’s current lineup is dominated by animated shows, while Reed’s background is in primarily live-action programing. For the past three years, she was VP Original Series, overseeing live-action development for Disney Channel and Disney XD where she developed Jessie, Austin And Ally, Dog With A Blog, Lab Rats, and Crash & Bernstein.
The cash likely will be used to help Discovery pay for its planned $1.7B acquisition of ProSiebenSat.1 Group’s SBS Nordic operations — and possibly the $1B increase the company announced last year in its stock repurchase plan. Discovery …
The analysis today from Nomura Equity Research’s Michael Nathanson could dampen the mood at TV networks as we head into the big upfront ad sales season. The most startling discovery: total ad revenues didn’t grow at all in 2012 at the Big Media companies he tracks. Declines at Viacom and News Corp outweighed gains at Discovery and Scripps Networks while sales were “essentially flat” at CBS, Disney, and Time Warner. “Given the surge in media stocks, the aggregate 0% growth was somewhat surprising,” Nathanson says. Factoring out political and Olympics-related ads in 2012, he sees ad sales at the companies growing 3.6% in 2013. But the analyst is “cautious” about his forecast. The pickup in the U.S. economy has been “weak” and the ongoing budget stalemates portend “an uncertain economic future.” Meanwhile Internet-based media are taking market share, and driving ad rates down. “In effect, online advertising — specifically online display advertising — is enabling advertisers to reach their ‘eye-ball targets’ with less (and sometimes even no) ad dollar budget growth.” For example, last year media and entertainment companies cut their ad spending 4.2% — even as box office sales hit a record high.
The cable networks company says that Q4 profits were dinged by an increase in tax reserves and its accounting for stock-based compensation in a report that at first glance seems to have few big surprises. Discovery reported net income of $224M, -33.3% vs the last three months of 2011, on revenues of $1.2B, +8.5%. The revenue number is right where analysts expected it to be. But earnings at 61 cents a share contrast with expectations for 76 cents. The company tells the Street this morning that revenues in 2013 will be at least $5.6B and could go as high as $5.7B, which would be +27%, assuming its acquisition of the SBS Nordic operations closes in this quarter. That’s well ahead of the forecast by RBC Capital Markets’ David Bank, who expected $5.4B for 2013. Analysts likely will have questions about the performance of Discovery’s U.S. networks, where revenues increased just 4% to $703M in Q4 with operating income of $408M, +13%. The earnings report says that while ad sales were +9%, distribution revenue only rose 2% due to an apparent slowdown in licensing.
NEW YORK, January 24, 2013 – AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) today announced a strategic partnership with Discovery Communications, the world’s number one nonfiction media company. The partnership brings short-form videos from Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery, Science Channel, Military Channel to The AOL On Network’s library of more than 470,000 premium videos.
EXCLUSIVE: Discovery has expanded Nancy Daniels‘ role at the company. She has been named General Manager of Discovery Fit & Health, heading all operations for the network, including development and programming. Daniels will also keep her current responsibilities as EVP Production and Development, West for Discovery Channel, overseeing all aspects of development and programming for Discovery Channel that originate from the network’s West Coast offices. Additionally, Daniels will oversee all live events for the network that have included such recent specials as Chopper Live. Daniels is based in Los Angeles and will continue to report to Eileen O’Neill, Group President Discovery and TLC Networks. “Nancy has a proven track record for sharp storytelling and recognizing compelling real-life characters,” O’Neill said.
Discovery Fit & Health has been without a dedicated top executive since SVP Rita Mullin last year moved to sister network OWN where she is head of programming. The once small fitness channel FitTV was rebranded as Discovery Fitness & Health in 2011, merging FitTV’s programming with that of the bigger Discovery Health Channel after it became OWN. Discovery Fit & Health’s ratings have been sporadic, and O’Neill indicated that Daniels will spearhead a rebuilding effort. “When I want to reinvigorate a network, Nancy is my go-to,” O’Neill said. “By placing this operation under her supervision, I can maximize her ability to give this network a new direction, as we did with both TLC and Discovery Channel.”
The TV networks company-led group invested $20M in an intriguing business: Grockit has a service called Learnist that enables students planning to take tests such as the SATs and LSATs to help each other prepare with games and other …
Discovery CEO David Zaslav wants to quell a potentially big shareholder concern: that his pay TV networks company might become embroiled in costly bidding wars for sports rights as a result of its new investment in TF1‘s Eurosport. (That’s part of two major deals the company announced this morning.) This is Discovery’s first direct foray into the sports business. But the near-insane buying frenzies are characteristic of the U.S. market, which is “completely different,” he said in a conference call this morning. Eurosport focuses on regionally popular niche sports including tennis, cycling, skiing, skating, and curling. That’s “more manageable, much more predictable,” he says. “There isn’t one sport that they have to have….It doesn’t strive to be that big massive platform, which is consistent with what we do.” Discovery also is still feeling its way: It agreed to pay $221.6M for a 20% stake in Eurosport. It has an option to raise its holding to 51% in two years. If it does, then TF1 can require Discovery to buy the remaining 49% as well.
Discovery To Acquire ProSieben’s SBS Nordic Ops For $1.7B, Adds $1B To Stock Buyback Scheme, Outlines TF1 Alliance
Discovery Communications is widely expanding its footprint in Europe with the purchase of 12 TV networks and 19 radio stations in the Nordic countries. The company is also working on a strategic alliance with France’s TF1, as Deadline reported yesterday. The combined deals mark a roughly $2B investment by Discovery to increase its international reach. The deal for the SBS Nordic operations with Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1 brings general entertainment, scripted and sports programming to Discovery’s suite of services for the first time. Via the TF1 deal, Discovery would take an initial 20% stake in pan-European sports network Eurosport as well as buying into some of TF1′s branded channels. Below are two press releases, the first outlining the SBS Nordic deal and the second on the TF1 alliance:
(Silver Spring, Md.) – Discovery Communications today announced a definitive agreement with ProSiebenSat.1 Group to purchase the company’s SBS Nordic operations for a total enterprise value of approximately $1.7 billion (€1.325 billion). The acquisition of SBS Nordic includes 12 television networks in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, among other assets, and further solidifies Discovery’s long-term growth in the strong Nordic TV markets. The deal also expands Discovery’s brand portfolio by adding general entertainment, scripted and sports programming to the company’s suite of services for the first time. The transaction is subject to regulatory review and is expected to close in early 2013. Additionally, Discovery also announced that its Board of Directors has approved a $1.0 billion increase to its existing stock repurchase program.
“SBS Nordic has a fully distributed portfolio of dual revenue stream networks with a terrific management team that will expand Discovery’s footprint across the Nordic region, which includes some of the most well-penetrated and stable TV markets in the world,” said David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Communications. “Individually, and taken together, the acquisition of SBS Nordic, our pending strategic partnership with TF1 through the acquisition of a minority stake in Eurosport, and the increase in our share repurchase program are all complementary to our long-term growth strategy of delivering sustained operating results, creating strong organic growth through investment in content, brands and talent, and returning capital to shareholders.”
France’s TF1 today said its board of directors had voted to give company chief Nonce Paolini the greenlight to continue and finalize negotiations with Discovery Communications on a strategic alliance. On November 13, the companies disclosed they were in exclusive talks that could result in a significant investment by Discovery into the French media giant. Today, TF1 elaborated on the areas in which the two companies would partner and laid out some financials for the deal which is expected to close within the next few weeks.
TF1 said the two are looking to develop the future activities of Eurosport, the French conglom’s pan-European sports channel, which would see Discovery take a 20% minority interest in the Eurosport group for about $222M. Discovery would also have the option of increasing its stake to 51% after two years, at which point TF1 could exercise a put option lifting Discovery’s ownership to 100%.