Profits, subscribers up at Corus

The arrival of Viva and HBO Canada goose year-end numbers, and while ad revenues for the women's TV properties grew, kid-centric channels and radio saw a dip.

Corus Entertainment continues to profit from nesting TV viewers during the economic downturn.

The broadcaster on Thursday reported a small rise in fourth-quarter earnings on overall flat revenues, TV subscriber gains and cost-cutting, even as it sustained soft radio and TV ad sales.

Corus, which also operates the Nelvana animation studio, posted earnings of $18.7 million in the quarter to Aug. 31, against a profit of $17.4 million in 2008, after recording a $5.4 million restructuring charge at its radio division and a charge to shutter Discovery Kids.

Revenue during the latest quarter jumped 5% from $185.8 million to $195.2 million, with TV revenue rising 15% to $135.5 million as subscriber revenue jumped 19% after the launch of HBO Canada and the female-aimed Viva.

Movie Central finished fiscal 2009 with 953,000 subscribers, up 7% from year-earlier levels.

At the same time, specialty TV airtime sales fell 10% in the fourth quarter and 5% for the year, with the kids channels continuing to sustain weak toy and food ad revenues.

By contrast, Corus’ other female-skewing channels, including W, continue to post higher TV ad revenues year-on-year.

Performance on the TV side more than offset a struggling radio division, where revenues dropped 12% to $60 million during the fourth quarter. Local airtime revenues fell 12% for the fourth quarter and 10% for the year, while national airtime revenues tumbled 23% for the fourth quarter and 17% for the year.

Corus CEO John Cassaday told analysts he was ‘pleased’ with fiscal 2009, as the company positioned itself for growth in 2010.

Cassaday insisted a shift to pager measurement of radio and TV ratings by BBM pointed to sharply higher viewership and listenership. At the same time, Cassaday conceded that advertisers will not raise expenditures, only shift ad dollars to where audiences are better identified. ‘I don’t think markets will expand as we capture more audiences. It will be about getting our fair share of advertising based on better measurement of services,’ he told analysts.

From Playback Daily