The conversations never became serious. Still, Scripps Networks shares are down 7.2% with heavy volume today after The Wall Street Journal reported that the company and Discovery Communications have “abandoned” the preliminary discussions. The fall brings Scripps’ stock price roughly back to where it was in early December, before Variety reported that Discovery was “mulling” an offer. The family that controls Scripps “didn’t appear ready to sell,” the Journal reports. The paper adds that representatives for the companies never got to the point of discussing a possible price. That jibes with what I was hearing: Discovery has its sights set on expanding overseas, but — like just about every major company — considers just about any opportunity. Scripps’ lifestyle programming could complement Discovery’s, and everyone’s weighing M&A at a time when interest rates are so low. Scripps’ market value is down about $856M today in late trading to about $11.1B. Discovery shares are down about 3.1% for a market value of about $19.8B.
Talk about a Discovery-Scripps Networks deal appears to be premature. Discovery execs are engaged in what-if conversations about the idea of bidding for the owner of HGTV and Food Network. But the company hasn’t prepared an offer, and doesn’t have bankers working on one, as it focuses on opportunities to expand its clout overseas, I’m told. Are Discovery execs intrigued by Scripps? Sure — its lifestyle programming could complement Discovery’s. And everyone’s weighing M&A at a time when interest rates are so low. So never say never. But there’s been no fundamental change recently. That may disappoint investors who became excited by Variety‘s report that Discovery’s considering a play for Scripps. Its shares rose 7.6% today to $81 — after touching an all time high of $85.73. Analysts had mixed reactions to the deal talk. Citigroup’s Jason Bazinet downgraded Scripps to “sell,” saying that Discovery’s focus on international expansion makes the excitement about a bid ”unwarranted.” Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger says that there’s a “persuasive strategic rationale” for a combo if Discovery can help open doors overseas for Scripps’ networks. Moffett Nathanson Research’s Michael Nathanson says that both companies have been grappling with soft ratings, so a deal “could help change the near-term U.S. narrative” to potential cost synergies. Wunderlicht Securities’ Matthew Harrigan is intrigued by Discovery’s “heft for affiliate fee wrangles” with cable and satellite distributors. And Macquarie Securities’ Amy …
John Lansing has led the Scripps Networks operating division for the past nine years, overseeing Food Network, Travel Channel, HGTV, DIY Network, Cooking Channel, Great American Country and their related businesses. Scripps said today he is retiring from the post but will continue as a consultant. The company appointed 19-year veteran Burton Jablin to take over after serving as president of Scripps’ home category, which includes HGTV and DIY; Jablin was instrumental in the launch of HGTV in 1994, serving in several roles within the network until becoming its president in 2001. He will be responsible for the management and development of the company’s portfolio of television networks, digital content businesses and all other related operations. Kathleen Finch, formerly SVP and GM of HGTV and DIY, will take over running the home division. During Lansing’s tenure, total annual revenues generated by Scripps’ lifestyle media business tripled from $724 million in 2004 to $2.3 billion in 2012. Revenues for the company’s lifestyle media segment are up another 10% through the first six months of 2013. “It’s to John’s credit that Scripps Networks today is one of the industry’s shining stars, having defined lifestyle media as a content genre for television and the growing array of interactive media platforms”, Kenneth Lowe, chairman, president and CEO of parent Scripps Networks Interactive, said in the release announcing the moves. Lowe said Lansing “had a direct hand” in guiding the leadership …
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:
The company CEO, chairman and president benefited from new contract terms including special retention stock grants recognizing “the critical nature of [his] talent” in a year when Scripps Networks shares appreciated 33.5%. Ken Lowe‘s package included $1.3M salary, $7.4M in stock awards, $1.4M in option awards, $1.7M in non-equity incentives, $2M change in pension value, and $441,155 in other compensation according to the proxy filed at the SEC this morning. The “other” category includes $16,080 for dining, business, and country clubs. Lowe’s package is 3.1 times higher than the median for the four other highest-paid execs. That’s better than last year, when he made 3.5 times the median. But it’s still high enough to worry corporate governance watchdogs who say that a CEO’s pay can be considered out of whack when it’s at least 3 times higher than the average for his or her top colleagues.
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’s year-end results missed analysts’ targets, although revenues increased at all of its major networks. Operating income fell, but with income tax adjustments folded in Scripps Networks generated a net profit of $344.5M, +93.3% vs the last three months of 2011, on revenues of $604.7M, +9.2%. Analysts expected revenues to come in higher at $613.9M. Excluding one-time items, earnings came in at 84 cents a share, below forecasts for 92 cents. The company’s ad sales increased 4.3% to $409.4M while payments from pay TV distributions were up 14.8% to $166.9M. Scripps notes, though, that its Q4 expenses were up 14% to $339M largely due to “higher employee costs and investments in planned domestic and international growth initiatives” as well as programming and marketing expenses “to drive viewership at all of the company’s lifestyle television networks.”
The lifestyle oriented cable TV networks company reported across-the-board increases in Q3 revenues for its channels. Net income came in at $156.8M, +20.6% vs the period last year, on revenues of $566.2M, +12.4%. The revenue figure was slightly ahead of the $555.7M that analysts forecast. Earnings per share for continuing operations, at 79 cents, topped expectations for 74 cents. Company watchers may be surprised to see the 10% increase in ad sales to $377M — that’s about $5M more than many analysts anticipated. Just as interesting is the 18% jump in affiliate fees, to $175M. Food Network fed the coffers with $198.9M in revenue, +10.5% while HGTV was +8.1% to $195.4M. And all of the smaller channels delivered double-digit increases in revenues including Travel Channel’s $68.9M (+10.1%), DIY Network’s $29.9M (+26.0%)m Cooking Channel’s $21.6M (+30.5M), and GAC’s $6.9M (+14.5%). “We’ve established ourselves as clear leaders in our ability to influence consumer purchasing decisions in the home, food and travel categories,” CEO Kenneth Lowe says. “And in the process we’ve created tremendous value for our shareholders.”
Scripps Networks shares are retreating slightly this morning from the all-time high they hit yesterday following a report from Citi Research’s Jason Bazinet who said be believes that “Disney may acquire” the Tennessee-based cable channel company. The analyst’s conclusion appears to be based on the logic of a deal, not inside information that a transaction is in the works. Bazinet says Scripps would enable Disney to appeal to older women — a demo it misses at properties including ESPN, Disney Channel, and Marvel. ABC tries to reach women over 49 with shows such as Desperate Housewives, Lost, Grey’s Anatomy and Dancing With The Stars. But shows on broadcast TV “simply don’t ring up the same sort of profits as lesser known shows on cable TV,” he says. That could change if Disney owned Scripps’ channels including Food Network, HGTV, and Travel Channel. It also makes sense for Disney to become less reliant on ESPN, which has become enormously profitable by demanding extraordinarily high and rising fees from pay TV distributors. In a slow-growth economy, “it’s not clear how many years – or decades – this can last,” Bazinet says. He estimates that Scripps could sell for as much as $10.3B, or $67.07 a share — up from its current trading price of around $60. If Disney used stock to buy Scripps, it might dilute earnings per share by about …
PHILADELPHIA, PA and KNOXVILLE, TN – July 16, 2012 – Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Scripps Networks Interactive (NYSE: SNI) announced today they have reached a long-term agreement to expand their relationship in bringing Scripps’ popular television networks and their award-winning shows to Comcast’s Xfinity TV customers throughout the U.S. on more devices than ever before. The multi-year arrangement covers distribution via Comcast’s linear and on-demand platforms and makes Scripps’ content available to Xfinity TV customers through online, mobile, and other devices, as well as via Scripps’ sites and services.
After a four-year stint as president of HGTV, Jim Samples is leaving the network but staying with parent company Scripps Networks as President, International. Samples’ post at HGTV won’t be filled. As part of a company-wide management restructuring last year, Scripps EVP Burton Jablin was given oversight of HGTV and sister network DIY. Kathleen Finch, who has served as SVP/general manager of HGTV since September 2010, will handle day-to-day responsibilities of running the network. In his new role, Samples will oversee Scripps’ international programming portfolio, reporting too Joseph G. NeCastro, chief financial and administrative officer. Samples replaces Greg Moyer, who is stepping down and will serve as a consultant to Scripps’ international group. Additionally, Bob Baskerville, General Manager, International, has been named Chief Operating Officer, International and will oversee all day-to-day operations of the international businesses.
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.
Shares are down 2.6% in pre-market trading following the 3Q earnings report from the owner of lifestyle channels including HGTV and the Food Network. The company said it had nearly $130M in net income, down 4.5% vs last year’s 3Q, on revenues of $503.7M, up 7.9%. Analysts expected to see $509.7M. Earnings at 65 cents a share matched the Street’s expectation — but included several one-time gains and losses. Factoring those out, the company says its continuing operations delivered 66 cents. Scripps says that its decision to produce new shows at all its networks contributed to a 25% increase in programming costs and a 33% increase in marketing and promotion expenses. Those outweighed an 8.6% gain in ad revenues, to $344M, and 6.1% improvement in affiliate fees, to $148M. As for revenues at the major channels: Food Network was +12% to $180M, HGTV was +4.1% to $181M, Travel Channel was +0.4% to $62.6M, DIY Network was +3.7% to $23.7M, Cooking Channel was +36% to $16.6M, and Great American Country was -21% to $6.1M. “Our strategy to stay focused on these attractive content categories has resulted in consistent growth for the company and the creation of significant value for our shareholders,” says CEO Kenneth Lowe.
Add two more influential cable programmers to the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement — an initiative by Big Media and advertisers that hopes to update TV ratings system to account for viewing on new platforms including smartphones. The group is supported by heavyweights including AT&T, CBS, Comcast, Discovery, Disney, News Corp, Procter & Gamble, Starcom MediaVest, Time Warner, and Viacom.
NEW YORK, NY – September 7, 2011 – The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM / cimm-us.org), today announced that A+E Networks and Scripps Networks LLC are the newest members of the industry alliance focused on finding the best ways to measure changing media audiences.
“The combination of rapid technology advancements and shifting consumer behavior is quickly changing the media landscape in how we consume media and how we measure that consumption,” said Mike Greco, EVP Research, A+E Networks. “It’s critical that the industry comes together to map our best practice and leverage new insights and innovations. We are extremely excited to be partnering with media companies and advertisers through CIMM to activate new tools and insights into our businesses.”
Scripps Networks has appointed Andy Singer, formerly the general manager of the company’s DIY Network, as head of programming and production at Travel Channel. Singer, whose new title is SVP Programming and Production Development, will focus on developing shows, talent and the network’s programming strategy; he replaces Fred Graver, who is focusing on special projects. Scripps is looking to grow Travel beyond its current 66 million households; earlier today, the company reported that the network’s revenue was up 15% year-over-year; Ross Babbitt will take Singer’s post at DIY. Before Scripps, Singer was a show producer at VH1 and also produced programs for A&E, 20th Century Fox, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and nationally syndicated broadcast series Extra and Inside Edition.
Scripps Networks stayed on course in 2Q, which is a contrast to other cable channel owners that ended the period with mixed messages. The company generated $77.4M in net income, a drop of 27% from the period last year, which was muddied by changes related to Scripps’ acquisition of the Travel Channel and recent sale of Shopzilla, an online comparative shopping site. On an apples-to-apples basis, profits would be up 19% in the quarter, the company says. Revenues were up 12% to $534M. The earnings from continuing operations, at 78 cents a share, beat the 72 cents that analysts expected, while the revenues were on target. Scripps says that it saw improvement at all of its channels except Great American Country, where revenues fell 31% to $5.9M. With increased ad sales and fees from pay TV companies, Food Network revenues were up 8.2% to $187M, HGTV increased 8.9% to $189M, and Travel was up 15% to $70.3M. “Put it all together, and the company succeeded in delivering solid doubt-digit growth in revenue and segment profit during the second quarter and is on track for another outstanding year,” CEO Ken Lowe says.
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.”
Scripps Networks seemed to dash investor hopes that it might be sold when the owner of HGTV and the Food Network announced today a plan to buy back $1 billion of its stock — including $300 million from its controlling shareholder, The Edward W. Scripps Trust. Speculation about a sale grew on June 17 when the trust asked a probate court for a ruling that would have made it easier for family members to sell their shares. It would have dissolved the trust on the death of Edward W. Scripps’ last grandchild, who’s 93. Scripps’ stock price rose 5.9%, the biggest single-day jump in two years. After the company announced its stock repurchase, the share price fell 19 cents to $48.88. Scripps Networks CEO Ken Lowe says the decision “demonstrates our faith in the financial strength of our lifestyle media businesses and the company’s ability to generate strong free cash flow.”