Hugh Hefner -- that high priest of hedonism -- has, in addition to his personal harem of lovely ladies, another reason to smile joyously. Playboy Enterprises
Revenues for the first quarter rose 9% to $80.9 million. Net income was $1.9 million ($0.06 per share), compared with $0.6 million ($0.02 per share) a year ago. The release mentioned the recent stock offering by the company to assist in debt reduction -- a good move. Even with the dilution, the strategy is sound in this case, as Playboy isn't as liquid an issue as others.
The company's operating segments did well, with publishing and online revenues seeing double-digit rises (11% and 19%, respectively). Licensing sales, however, went down 9% (this includes the divestiture of a valuable painting in last year's quarter). Corporate expenses also were disappointing, jumping to $4.6 million from last year's $2.9 million. Overall, however, these are positive results.
Playboy has been plagued in recent years by an upsurge in periodicals aimed at the same male demographic it vies for. Magazines like Stuff, Maxim, and FHM are providing intense competition, and when juxtaposed against these fresh, vibrant entries, Playboy can appear a bit antiquated to those who grew up on Sony's
Not only that, but magazines that don't feature all-out nudity and explicit sexual subject matter tend to be accepted by a more mainstream audience, i.e. a larger one. (Before people email me about Maxim and the like being arguably as explicit as Playboy, keep in mind, I mean the statement in a relative sense.) Still, the company has made great fiscal strides recently, a fitting tribute to its 50-year legacy. And even though the periodical sector's fortunes are debatable, the industry seems to be doing reasonably well.
Playboy also has a thriving video and pay television business (revenues increased 7% here), and its online offerings capture many disposable dollars allocated for adult entertainment. Once again, though, there are other brands cutting in on the company's parade (the Girls Gone Wild brand comes to mind). CEO Christie Hefner must continue her initiatives to make Playboy more relevant and exciting to a new succession of admirers, and must strive for total differentiation from all other entities in the growing adult media sector. Further editorial shifts and creative licensing of the hare logo with an eye towards an MTV generation-like attitude should yield benefits down the proverbial road.
Let's face it: sex sells. And Playboy is a wonderful brand in this arena, a cultural icon with an important past, not only of titillating, groundbreaking photographic visuals but of political journalism and literary achievement. Although it has struggled recently, it's a great asset that should reward shareholders once again with proper brand management.
Playboy's not a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation, but Time Warner is. Want to learn more? Then just click here.
Fool contributor Steven Mallas prays that one day he will be invited to a party at the Playboy Mansion. He owns no shares in any of the companies mentioned.
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