E.W. Scripps, bucking an industry trend of poor results, was lifted by a strong scatter-ad market for cable channels Food Network and Home & Garden Television. The Cincinnati-based company reported that its first-quarter earnings grew 23% to $84.1 million, or 51 cents per share, from $68.5 million in the same quarter one year ago. Corporate revenue increased 6.8% to $642 million, from $601.4 million.
But results from its newspaper and local TV stations declined, hurt by presidential-primary boycotts in Florida and Michigan that "left a lot of money on the table," Scripps president and CEO Kenneth W. Lowe said in an investors' conference call. He added that automotive and retail were also weak. First-quarter segment profit at its stations slid 13% to $14.2 million versus $16.4 million, despite an increase in political ads. Overall TV-station revenue was down 0.6% to $76 million. Offering guidance in the TV station group, Scripps predicted total revenue to be flat or up slightly and expenses to be up in the mid-single digits.
The company also said it would consider buying the 31% of the Food Network owned by Tribune Co., which is shedding assets to reduce debt.