The company behind HGTV, Food Network and other lifestyle channels has a great topline story to tell for Q1. The bottom line? Not so much. Net income came in at $151.2M, -3.7% vs the period last year, on revenues of $594.4M, +11%. The revenue figure was well above the $582.5M that analysts expected. But earnings attributable to Scripps Networks investors, at 72 cents a share, were 2 cents shy of the consensus forecast. The company says that ad sales and affiliate fees were both up 11% in early 2013, respectively to $395M and $187M. Food Network revenues came in at $208.3M (+4.8%), with HGTV at $206.0M (+10.9%), Travel Channel at $76.4M (+15.1%), DIY Network at $$31.9M (+15.4%), Cooking Channel at $26.3M (+32.7%), and GAC — Great American Country — at $6.4M (+28.2%). But expenses for the quarter, at $347M, were +17%. Scripps Networks says that the increased outlays were “driven by programming amortization expenses as the company invests to drive viewership” as well as “higher employee costs and investments in planned domestic and international growth initiatives.” The company has been struggling to boost its audiences in the U.S., where the pay TV market has plateaued, and to expand overseas.
Travel Channel is embarking on its post-Anthony Bourdain life by adding four new series to its 2013 programming slate, which was unveiled today as part of Scripps Networks Interactive‘s upfront presentation today in NY. The lineup includes a new show from host Adam Richman, Adam Richman’s Fandemonium, which will premiere July 14. The other three greenlighted shows are the wilderness survival series Get Lost, the take-out food series Best Daym Takeout starring YouTube food critic Daymon Patterson, and the antique car restoration show Backroad Gold. Travel Channel also set premiere dates for Season 3 of Hotel Impossible (August 12) and Season 5 of Mysteries At The Museum (August 15).
Here’s a look at the networks’ new and returning shows:
It’s not a leading economic indicator. But Scripps Networks CEO Kenneth Lowe says that programming on his cable channel HGTV “had to be turned on its head” when the housing bubble burst a few years ago. Viewers suddenly wanted to know how to flip their house, not just how to make it beautiful. But things are changing, he hopes: “As we slowly build the housing market back, it will have a positive effect on HGTV.” So will improvements at the network’s popular show House Hunters, where ratings have softened. “Stabilization is the key word” for that show, Lowe says. That concept is important for all of Scripps’ lifestyle-focused services. When it comes to advertising, “we’re not seeing a lot of things to be concerned about, but we’re watching along with the rest of the industry,” says Lori Hickok, EVP Finance. Lowe’s upbeat, though, because he says Scripps’ channels are “the female equivalent of ESPN. They’re must-have. … The passion and connection that female viewers have for these networks is second to none.” Even among those viewers, Scripps saw a shift last year to sports programming, which Lowe says “was a little unusual.” He attributes that to the growing appeal of live shows.
The cable industry is livid today over a new FCC order that makes it harder for pay TV distributors to mess around with independently owned channels. Regulators clarified the rules of engagement called for by the 1992 Cable Act to resolve contract disputes that channels have with cable and satellite companies. One provision particularly infuriates cable: The FCC says channels can’t be interrupted during a fight; for example, Cablevision customers lost Food Network and HGTV in early 2010 when Scripps wanted to raise the price for its services. A standstill order would keep existing contract terms in place while the FCC resolves the matter. The agency particularly wants to prevent cable operators from using their near-monopoly power in TV distribution to favor channels that they own — or extort channel owners to sell equity in order to guarantee carriage. Public interest advocates welcome the change. “This will promote diversity in cable TV offerings by insuring that independent cable channels have a shot at getting carriage on large cable systems” says Media Access Project policy director Andrew Jay Schwartzman. But former FCC Chairman Michael Powell — now CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association — says the order shows “little regard for the limits of agency authority or constitutional rights, and a disturbing lack of appreciation of the potential impact of government intervention on consumers or the marketplace.”
After a three-day blackout of Scripps Networks’ cable networks, including HGTV and Food Network, on AT&T U-Verse, the two sides tonight reached a new distribution agreement. The five Scripps channels affected, HGTV, Food Network, DIY, Cooking Channel and Great American Country have been restored in 2.7 million AT&T U-verse …
Another week, another carriage dispute that escalated into channels being pulled from a cable/satellite system. This time, it is the Scripps Networks, including HGTV and Food Network, which went black on AT&T U-Verse at 1 AM. The same networks were also off Cablevision for 3 weeks at the beginning of the year as part of the two sides’ nasty carriage dispute. In the summer, AT&T U-Verse came close to losing AMC in a standoff with Rainbow Media but the companies reached a last-minute agreement, preventing a blackout. Here is AT&T’s release: