One reason is that advertisers continue to book time close to air date. Another is a continuing wild card: how the upfront will play out. A year ago, Scripps sold about 50% of its inventory there.
Lowe spoke on a conference call to discuss results from the January-March period -- where the lifestyle media segment, led by the two large networks, saw a 4.6% drop in advertising revenues. Scatter pricing was down significantly compared to 2008 levels, but still above upfront levels.
The segment also saw ad dollars drop at its online operations -- where revenues were down 6.2%. It continues to build new ventures centered on online video, including one linked to Food Network.
SNI executives said they lowered costs in the first quarter (1.7%) in the lifestyle media group, in response to the economy. But the company continued to invest in programming. One area of reduction was marketing and promotion.
Profit in the segment was up 1.9% to $146 million. Revenue was flat year-over-year at $311 million, where increases in subscription fees offset the declines in ad dollars. In addition to Food Network and HGTV, SNI operates the lesser-distributed DIY Network, Fine Living and Great American Country.
Scripps owns 70% of Food Network, with Tribune holding the balance. SNI would like to acquire that stake, but with the struggling Tribune focusing on selling the Chicago Cubs, a deal is not expected this year, Lowe said.
Overall, Scripps' revenue fell 7% to $361 million. Net income dropped to $60.1 million from $66.5 million. Its other businesses include interactive ventures uSwitch and Shopzilla.