Were Scripps’ Q4 Radio Results A Political Move?


Political revenue was not only a net positive for The E.W. Scripps Co.’s broadcast television stations during Q4, but it also gave its radio segment a good shot in the arm.

Speaking during his company’s Q4 conference call with Wall Street analysts on Friday morning, company SVP/Broadcast Brian Lawlor said political revenue of $550,000 “helped drive better results” for Scripps’ AM and FM stations during the final three months of 2016.

He added that revenue was either flat or up in four key markets, while singling out Milwaukee, where it has former Journal Broadcast Group flagships WTMJ-AM and WKTI-FM. Lawlor thanked a strong season from the Green Bay Packers NFL franchise for the Wisconsin action.

But, other markets such as Boise, Idaho, where Scripps operates four FM properties, presents Scripps a challenge, a RBR + TVBR ratings analysis of Nielsen Audio data for Fall 2016 show.

Scripps operates 28 FM stations and six AM stations, and in Q4 radio revenue dipped 1.4%, to $18.77 million. Segment profit came in at $4.22 million, however, compared to $3.86 million.

In Q4, segment profit totaled $4.22 million, a 9.5% improvement from the year-ago period. But, this is the result of $14.55 million in costs and expenses being subtracted from total segment operating revenue of $18.77 million — a 1.4% dip from Q4 2015.

However, Scripps is reining in costs and expenses for its AM and FM radio stations, as they dipped 4.2% year-over-year.

Scripps is doing its best to trim its “other expenses,” which dipped to $4.2 million, from $4.6 million. Costs associated with employee compensation and benefits were also sliced by 3.5%, to $7.14 million.

In breaking out Scripps’ radio industry revenue, advertising was down 2.3%, to $17.76 million, in Q4.

The radio segment performance is better than what Scripps is seeing in its digital division: While operating revenue soared 42%, to $18.79 million, in Q4, it’s still running at a loss due to costs and expenses totaling $21.67 million — up 26.5% year-over-year. On a positive note, this loss narrowed from $3.89 million to $2.88 million, year over year.

For fiscal 2016, Scripps’ radio division saw total operating revenue climb 20.3%, to $70.86 million. However, radio segment profit was statistically flat, at $12.8 million.

Overall, Scripps saw total operating revenue grow 31.8% in FY16, to $943.1 million. This was fueled by Scripps’ television segment, which saw operating revenue increase by 31.6%, to $802.13 million.

Scripps’ TV stations reach approximately 18% of the nation’s television households and is comprised of 15 ABC affiliates, five NBC affiliates, two FOX affiliates, two CBS affiliates, five Azteca América affiliates, and four unaffiliated TV stations.

Additionally, Scripps runs an expanding collection of local and national digital journalism and information businesses, including multi-platform satire and humor brand Cracked, podcast industry leader Midroll Media, and “over-the-top” video news service Newsy. Scripps also produces television shows including “The List” and “The Now.”