Comparison Engines Drag On Scripps Interactive Results

Despite a good performance by its online TV and newspaper brands, the E.W. Scripps interactive media unit suffered a nearly 10% year-over-year second-quarter decline, the media company reported Tuesday.

The unit, which includes comparison shopping sites Shopzilla and uSwitch, made $59 million in the second quarter--down 9.2% from $65 million during second-quarter 2006.

Segment profit for the interactive media division was down 58.8% to $6.8 million from $16.5 million in the second quarter last year. The decline was attributed to "reduced online energy switching activity at uSwitch and lower referral fee revenue at Shopzilla."

The U.K.-based uSwitch, which Scripps bought last year for $366 million, is known as a vertical search engine for utility companies--mainly energy providers--and generates most of its revenue through commissions when users switch service providers.

Still, online revenue at Scripps Networks--HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network, among other brands--increased 26% to $19.4 million. Online revenue at Scripps' newspaper unit, meanwhile, increased 25% to $10.7 million.

"Scripps benefited during the second quarter from solid financial performance at our lifestyle television networks and network-branded Web sites," Kenneth Lowe, Scripps president and CEO, said in the earnings report. "Online advertising growth at Scripps Networks was particularly strong as we move assertively to build out the interactive side of the business."

Scripps' online divisions have performed rather well this past year, as CPMs for its broadband outlets--which include HGTV and DIY network--are in the $30-$35 range, versus $15-$18 for a more traditional Internet banner or other presence.

To bolster its digital operations, Scripps recently poached Yahoo executive Deanna Brown as president of its Interactive Group. Brown served as the general manager of Yahoo Media Group's Lifestyles business unit. The company just acquired a recipe site to complement FoodNetwork.com and plans to launch a hyper-vertical ad network, which is expected to be powered by Adify.com.

Overall, Scripps saw a net income gain of 37% in the second quarter this year--reaching $97.5 million, compared with $71.1 million last year. Revenue slipped 0.3% to $640 million from $642 million year-over-year. The overall newspaper unit took in $166 million--8.8% less than the $182 million last year.

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