Scripps Networks Interactive (NASDAQ:SNI), owner of popular TV brands Food Network and HGTV, today posted mixed third-quarter earnings results. Revenue came up short but profit beat Wall Street's expectations. Lets take a closer look.
Sales increased 4.5% to reach $644 million. That performance was a tad below the $651 million that Wall Street analysts were targeting. Scripps wasn't immune to the advertising spending slowdown that's pinching major media companies these days. In fact, ad revenue rose 5.4% in Q3 as compared to 7.6% in the prior quarter. Still, the company continues to outperform rivals. Discovery Communications (NASDAQ: DISCK), for example, announced this week that growth in its advertising business slowed to 1% in Q3.
"These solid third-quarter operating results demonstrate our unique competitive advantage, and our ability to create long-term value for shareholders in a changing marketplace," CEO Kenneth Lowe said in a press release accompanying the results.
Part of that competitive advantage is Scripps' broad portfolio of networks that tend to attract big-spending advertisers due to its upscale viewer profile. The company managed to outgrow the industry in Q3 mainly on the strength of the HGTV and Food Network channels, its two biggest by revenue, but also saw solid contributions from other brands. HGTV actually improved its sales performance over the prior quarter, growing by 7% as compared to 6.8% in Q2. Food Network slowed slightly, growing by 5.1% as opposed to 6.4% in Q2.
Overall, Scripps' channels look quite healthy, with almost every one of its six biggest brands logging strong growth over the last nine months. The Travel Channel has had the weakest performance so far this year, posting flat revenue growth.
Profits and capital allocation
As for earnings, Scripps managed to book substantially higher profit than Wall Street was expecting. Net income grew 6% to $0.93 per share, ahead of expectations for a profit drop to $0.84 per share. The beat looks to have come from a surprising drop in expenses: Scripps' selling and administrative costs fell 5% in Q3 even as sales rose. So far on the year, the media giant's profits are up 4% to $860 million.
On a per share basis, those profits are growing at about twice that pace thanks to Scripps' aggressive share repurchasing. That strategy continued in Q3 as the company spent $250 million buying back its own stock. Management spent slightly more, $300 million, in the prior quarter. Scripps has directed $800 million to buybacks through the first three quarters of 2014 as compared to just $250 million over the comparable period in 2013.