Bell Media revenue dips 5% to $713M; Crave subs up to 2.9M

The streaming service had its best quarter since the final season of Game of Thrones was on air, adding 139,000 new subscribers in Q1.

Bell Media revenue decreased by 5% to $713 million in Q1 as the company continued to deal with the fallout of the pandemic, but the company was buoyed by 12% year-over-year subscription growth in its streaming platform Crave.

The OTT service had its best quarter since the final season of Game of Thrones was on air, according to parent company BCE’s Q1 financial report, with the streamer adding 139,000 subscribers to surpass 2.9 million.

The subscriber additions pushed Bell Media’s digital revenues up by 16%, with digital revenue now accounting for 17% of Bell Media’s total revenue, up from 14% a year ago, according to BCE.

While Bell Media’s revenue was down compared to Q1 of 2020, this quarter’s results represent sequential improvement since the onset of the pandemic. In Q4, Bell Media was down 10% compared to the same quarter the year before.

Unsurprisingly, the year-over-year decline was driven by a shortfall in ad revenue, particularly for out-of-home and radio advertising. This was offset partly by higher TV advertising revenues from the acquisition of V and in May 2020, and greater sports advertising revenues year over year.

Bell Media subscriber revenue was down slightly in Q1 primarily due to the timing of certain BDU contract renewals, said BCE. However, those declines were offset largely by growth in subscribers from Crave and STARZ, in addition to sports streaming services.

For BCE as a whole, operating revenue increased to $5.71 billion in Q4, from $5.64 billion the prior year.

Elsewhere in the BCE conference call, CEO Mirko Bibic declined to comment on the recent revelation that BCE was also in the running to acquire Shaw, but walked away from the deal due to concerns it would be exposed to undue regulatory risk, paving the way for Roger Communications’ $26-million bid to be accepted.

“We will always look at opportunities that come up and capitalize on the opportunities that make sense for our shareholders. The transaction…came up, we looked at it, and we decided not to proceed. I’m not going to add anything beyond what’s already in the public domain,” said Bibic.

A version of this story appeared on Playback.