Outdoor Channel: Revs Up, Diversification Pays Off

Bucking the trend of industry declines, the Outdoor Channel -- one of the few cable networks not owned by a major media company -- said it posted a slight increase in ad revenue in the first quarter. Ad dollars at the network, which is in 30 million homes, rose 2.1% to $7.8 million.

Total revenues for the parent company jumped 45.3% to $17 million, propelled by revenue coming from the purchase of a production company, Winnercomm, that it didn't own a year ago.

Still, parent Outdoor Channel Holdings posted a net loss of $1.3 million. The channel focuses on genres such as hunting, fishing and off-road motorsports.

Much of its ad sales come from infomercials, an area that has slowed in the current second quarter. CEO Roger Werner said one reason could be that broadcast networks and ESPN have been dropping prices, and peeling away some potential infomercial dollars.

Werner added that in the current April-June period, sales are coming in at a level that is flat or slightly below the same period a year ago. On a conference call, he said the network is experiencing "substantial headwinds in the advertising environment."

Tulsa, Okla.-based Winnercomm, which was purchased in January, is noted for offering overhead camera angles for sports broadcasts via its Skycam product, such as ESPN's coverage during "Monday Night Football." It also produces programming for Outdoor Channel and other programmers, and sells related sponsorships and advertising for some of the offerings.

A sense of how important the Winnercomm acquisition may become: In the first quarter, the unit brought the company revenues of $4.5 million, slightly less than the $4.7 million Outdoor garnered from subscription fees.

Werner said the Winnercomm purchase will help diversify the company's revenue base and open opportunities to attract more sponsorship and ad dollars.

In midday trading Friday, Outdoor Channel Holdings was trading at about $7.80 a share, up some 4%.

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