Global TV, W Network audience success help Corus Q1 advertising revenue

TORONTO — Global Television and W Network were star performers for Corus Entertainment Inc. during its fall financial quarter but chief executive officer Doug Murphy said Friday it's too early to predict how things will unfold later this year.

Murphy told financial analysts in a conference call that he didn't want to make predictions because "the marketplace is so dynamic."

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On the other hand, Murphy was generally upbeat about his company's performance during its September-November financial quarter and about where Corus stands with advertisers now compared with a year ago.

"Looking ahead, we have a lot to be excited about. Our data analytics and advanced advertising initiatives are gaining traction as we work to change the way we sell television and promote our shows," Murphy said.

Corus is working with other Canadian companies — particularly parent company Shaw Communications Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc. — to collect and analyze more data about viewer habits.

Murphy said that initiative — which uses some of the audience tracking and analysis techniques pioneered by Google and Facebook — has made progress.

In addition, he said, there's evidence advertisers may have tilted too much towards digital advertising on internet and streaming channels.

"So they're re-allocating those dollars into the reach and frequency that TV provides," Murphy said.

The television, radio and production company's overall revenue totalled $467.5 million, up from $457.4 million and above the estimate of $451.2 million.

Murphy said that a good lineup of new programs on Global TV was a major factor last fall — and this year's advertising deals are ahead of last year at this time — but he wouldn't predict what will happen in the fall of 2019.

"Viewers will go from platform to platform and find the shows that they want."

According to an analysis of Numeris audience numbers published by MediaInCanada.com, Global's "New Amsterdam" medical drama had the biggest audience of any new series last fall and was ranked No. 4 overall.

CTV programs took five of the overall top 10 spots last fall, including the top 3, but Global dominated the middle of the top 10 with "New Amsterdam," "Survivor," "FBI," "9-1-1," and "NCIS" according the analysis.

Murphy said that even Netflix has to license much of its content from Hollywood studios and will be under pressure to produce more of its own to retain its audience.

He said a partnership with Toronto-based toy company Spin Master on a relaunch of the Bakugan toy and television show will start to show in the Corus summer quarter ending Aug. 31 but "it's really a 2020 story for us."

Revenue from the television division — which includes Global TV network, more than 40 TV channels including W Network, and its studio businesses — increased to $426.2 million compared with $415.5 million a year ago.

Revenue from the Corus radio division amounted to $41.3 million, up from $41.9 million, with weakness in the Toronto and Edmonton markets offsetting growth in other local markets.

Despite the higher Q1 revenue, Corus profit was down — partly because of its accounting for a revaluing of a TV brand that will be retired and replaced this year.

The Corus profit attributable to shareholders fell to $60.4 million or 28 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Nov. 30 as amortization charges rose due to the accounting change. The result compared with a profit of $77.7 million or 38 cents per diluted share a year ago.

On an adjusted basis, the company said it earned $70.1 million or 33 cents per share, down from $78.9 million or 38 cents per share in the same quarter last year.

Analysts had estimated 40 cents per share of adjusted earnings, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

Companies in this story: (TSX:CJR.B, TSX:SJR.B, TSX:RCI.B, TSX:BCE)

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