Canadian broadcast earnings improving

Astral, Corus, Canwest boosted on ad, subscriber growth

TORONTO -- That getting-worse Canadian TV ad slump has vanished.

Canuck broadcasters, releasing their latest financial results this week, are revealing an improving Canadian ad climate during an economic upturn, on top of subscriber growth for pay and cable channel operators.

Montreal-based Astral Media on Thursday saw its third quarter earnings to May 31 rise 9% to CAN$48.4 million ($46.7 million), as TV revenue rose 9% to CAN$144.9 million ($140 million) and radio revenue also rose 9% to CAN$89 million ($86 million).

Overall revenue from radio, pay and cable TV and outdoor advertising rose 9% CAN$253.6 million ($245 million), with subscription revenue growing 7%.

Astral president and CEO Ian Greenberg said the broadcaster was operating in " a slowly recovering economic and advertising market environment," fueling continued revenue growth.

Rival radio and TV broadcaster Corus Entertainment also posted higher third quarter earnings to May 31 on stronger ad sales.

Toronto-based Corus posted earnings of CAN$31.4 million ($30.3 million), against a loss of $145 million in 2009, when the broadcaster recorded a steep broadcast license and goodwill impairment charge.

Corus saw overall revenue rise 12% to CAN$218.4 million ($211 million), with TV revenue increasing by 13% to CAN$147 million) ($142 million, and radio revenue up 9% to CAN$71.4 million ($69 million).

"With our ad sales pacing ahead in the fourth quarter and ongoing signs of economic recovery, we are on track to achieve our earnings guidance for the fiscal year," Corus CEO John Cassaday told analysts during a morning call.

Even Canwest Global Communications Corp., which is set to shortly emerge from creditor protection under new owner Shaw Communications, returned to profit in the third quarter.

Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Canwest Global recorded CAN$16 million ($15.4 million) in earnings to May 31, against a loss of CAN$111 million in 2009 when the debt-laden broadcaster hit a wall during an industry ad slump and a worsening economy.

A year later, Canwest Global saw overall revenue rise 3% to CAN$557 million ($538 million), on a stronger ad market and cost-cutting benefits.
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