Scripps reports first-quarter EPS of 25 cents

Tue, August 26, 1997 by Rich Boehne

CINCINNATI, Ohio – The E.W. Scripps Company today reported income from continuing operations of $19.7 million, 25 cents per share, compared to $19.8 million, 25 cents per share in the year-ago quarter.Consolidated operating cash flow (operating income before depreciation and amortization) decreased 2.5 percent to $55 million, and operating income decreased 7.1 percent to $37.5 million, excluding divested operations. Because of the continued aggressive roll-out of Home & Garden Television (HGTV), its cash operating loss was $3.4 million vs. $3.1 million in the year-ago quarter. This reduced the Company’s first-quarter net income by $2.3 million in 1996 and $2.0 million in 1995. The network has more than 15 million subscribers under contract, including 12.7 million subscribers who already receive HGTV.“Home & Garden Television is blooming in markets across the country,” said Lawrence A. Leser, chairman and chief executive officer. “The response from viewers and advertisers continues to exceed our expectations.“Our newspapers are performing well under difficult circumstances. Continued economic strength in the markets we serve has helped us weather the storm of sharply higher newsprint costs and weak retail advertising that is plaguing many parts of the country.”Strong ratings for local news, the best measure of a television station’s success, continue to help the performance of our nine network affiliates. Our ratings are bolstered by the quality of journalism that just earned WXYZ in Detroit the prestigious Peabody Award for Best News Investigation.”Interest expense was $1.4 million, down $1.9 million from last year due to lower debt.First-quarter results excluding cable TV and other divested operating unitsThe Company announced on Oct. 29, 1995, that it had reached a definitive agreement that will result in its cable television systems being owned by the Comcast Corporation through a tax-free transaction valued at $1.575 billion. The transaction, which includes 800,000 subscribers, is expected to close later this year.Beginning with the fourth quarter of 1995, cable television has been presented as a discontinued operation in the Company’s financial statements.Newspapers:Operating cash flow decreased 7.4 percent to $35.8 million. Newsprint costs rose 27 percent, or $7.3 million, despite a 6 percent decline in usage.Total newspaper revenues moved up 5 percent to $159 million.Advertising revenues increased 5.5 percent to $114 million. Broken down by category:· Local retail increased 3.8 percent to $48.6 million;· Classified increased 8.4 percent to $45.6 million;· National increased 9.2 percent to $4.2 million;· Preprint increased 2.1 percent to $15.6 million.Circulation revenues increased 7.3 percent to $33.6 million.Broadcast television:Revenues, at $70.7 million, were up 5.6 percent over the year-ago quarter. Political advertising was up to $1.4 million, compared to $61,000 in the first quarter of 1995. Operating cash flow increased 8.1 percent to $24.3 million.Entertainment: Cash operating losses were $1.1 million due to costs at the two new programming ventures – Scripps Howard Productions and HGTV.HGTV is carried by 592 cable systems in 49 states.First quarter cable TV resultsOperating cash flow in the first quarter increased 15 percent to $31.4 million, helped by the Jan. 5 purchase of cable systems in the Knoxville/Chattanooga region. Those systems will be included in the Comcast transaction.The E.W. Scripps Company operates nine television stations; daily newspapers in 16 markets; cable systems with 800,000 subscribers; two television production companies – Los Angeles-based Scripps Howard Productions and Knoxville’s Cinetel Productions; United Media, a licensor and syndicator of news features and comics; and Home & Garden Television, a 24-hour cable television network.