Strong fourth-quarter political TV advertising was a benefit to many station groups -- including E.W. Scripps and Gray Television, which reported results on Friday.
Scripps grew to $106 million in political advertising compared to $11 million in the prior-year period -- about 10 times higher -- while Gray was also up nearly 1200% to $406 million.
Still, core advertising suffered, with Scripps dropping 11% to $164 million in the period.
Gray offered a broader "core" advertising picture that includes local, national and internet advertising revenue. With all of these components, core revenue grew 13% compared to $406 million in the period a year ago.
Still, for the full year, Gray says, core revenue declined 1% to $1.5 billion.
All this was not enough for investors. In mid-Friday stock market activity Gray Television shares were down 4% to $12.20 with Scripps 15% lower to $12.31, as recessionary concerns continue to hover over investors.
Although it does recognize conditions of a “possible macroeconomic recession”, Gray says: “We attribute these solid results to real-world confidence among advertisers and businesses in local markets, which we believe has been and remains more positive [emphasis added] than the advertising sentiment currently held by many national advertisers.”For both station groups, distribution/retransmission revenue continues to see gains, with Scripps up 5.4% to $160 million for the quarter and Gray 20% higher to $353 million.
In terms of a broader outlook for 2023, Gray says: “We anticipate that our television stations and production companies will maintain revenues at a level generally flat with recent years should macroeconomic conditions, particularly in local markets, slow during 2023.”Scripps believes its move to national TV, through local-based digital networks and connected TVd will give it a strong growth push. “We see even greater opportunity for Scripps through free TV,” says Adam Symson, Scripps’ president and CEO.
Scripps Networks' division grew connected TV (CTV) revenue by nearly 40% in 2022 from its national TV brands including ION, Bounce and Grit.
It expects more than $100 million in CTV revenue in 2023. Scripps also has created a new Scripps Sports business unit recently.