Bell Media revenue stable in Q3, but TV still a challenge

CEO George Cope said there is more work for Bell to do to maximize ad dollars through strategic placement.

During BCE’s third quarter conference call, a 1% increase in operating revenue for Bell Media contributed to a 5% increase in overall revenues for the communications company.

Bell Media pulled in $723 million in revenue, with higher advertising and subscription revenue compared to the same period in 2016.

However, the modest increase was largely due to “the recapture of advertising dollars following the shift in Q3 last year to the main broadcaster of the Rio Summer Olympics [CBC],” the company said. It confirmed that conventional and specialty TV revenues continued to face overarching market softness and a “steady decline” in audience levels.

Some of the summer’s top TV shows, including CTV’s Amazing Race Canada and Masterchef, saw slight decreases in audience from the previous year according to numbers from Numeris.

Despite struggles on the television side, continued growth in Bell Media’s OOH arm, Astral Out of Home, also contributed to the lift in media revenues.

Higher revenue in the media sector was offset by a 1.3% increase in operating costs from a mix of higher programming and content cost (much of which was directed to ramping up content for CraveTV and other pay TV service), deal renewals for specialty programming and increased costs at Astral due to acquisitions and new contract wins over the past year.

(New faces from Astral included two new large-format digital superboards near Pearson International Airport.)

While Bell did not specify revenue from its digital products, it did say both CraveTV and its various “Go” products (CTV Go, TSN Go) increased their revenue.

Overall viewership for NFL games on TSN and CTV was up 10% for the quarter, with average audiences up 53% on Sunday games, 18% on Mondays and 12% on Thursdays.

Bell TV gained 36,399 new IPTV subscribers, up slightly from the 36,253 added last year. New subscribers included those from the company’s new app-based live TV streaming service Alt TV, although Bell did not specify how many new customers were added to Alt TV. Its overall fibre subscription footprint grew to 3.6 million in the quarter, up from 2.8 million in Q3 2016.

In terms of ad tech, CEO George Cope said in a conference call to investors that the company “needs to do better.” Referencing the work that Corus Entertainment is currently doing with its segmentation and targeting experiments on the television side, Cope said there are also better opportunities for Bell. “How we can monetize more advertising dollars through placement… there is more work for us to do.”