Media and marketing company Meredith Corporation (NYSE: MDP) reported total company revenue of $743.4 million, an increase of 14.1% year-over-year, for the third quarter of its fiscal year 2019. Total revenue growth was driven by significant increases in advertising and consumer categories. Advertising revenue was $365.6 million, a 12.7% increase year-over-year, and consumer revenue was $359.0 million, 27.6% increase year-over-year. Consumer revenue includes subscriptions, brand licensing, affiliate marketing, lead generation, affinity marketing and paid products. Merediths other revenue was $18.8 million, compared to $45.2 million for the same period last year.
During the May 10 earnings call, Meredith president and CEO Tom Harty said the company has been laser-focused on the plan to integrate the Time Inc. acquisition into the Meredith brand, including combining Meredith with Time and selling non-core assets.
We have spent the last year focused on our integration plan, and synergies are a key part of that plan. We will delivery $550 million of cost savings from our integration work, though we are adjusting the timing of when we expect to capture those savings, Harty said on the earnings call.
Other financial highlights from Q3 FY2019 include:
- Earnings for the period totaled $28 million, compared to a loss of $95 million for Q3 FY2018.
- Earnings from continuing operations increased 29% to $43 million, compared to $33 million.
- Earnings per share were $0.52, compared to $0.45.
- Adjusted EBITDA grew 43% to $160 million, compared to $112 million.
- Adjusted earnings per share were $1.52, compared to $1.11.
We delivered improved advertising performance, along with growth in consumer related revenues in both our National and Local media groups in the third quarter of fiscal 2019, said Harty in the companys May 10 news release.
Our National Media Group generated significantly improved print advertising results, which on a comparable basis are now in-line with Meredith’s historical trends. In addition, we delivered revenue growth across our consumer related activities including subscription, newsstand, affinity marketing and e-commerce. Finally, we continued our strong commitment to Total Shareholder Return, including increasing our dividend by 5.5 percent and strengthening our balance sheet by paying down $700 million of debt, added Harty.
Harty said the company is exploring new digital platforms and video production and initiatives to grow consumer revenue through other platforms and e-commerce. Another key initiative is more profitable subscription acquisitions. When acquiring TIME, Meredith inherited some lower-margin agent-sourced subscriptions which have not been particularly profitable. As those subscriptions come up from renewal, we anticipate Meredith will be increasing rates.
During the earnings call, Jon Werther spoke about some of the companys acquisition initiatives, including a good response from bundled subscription offers for magazines including People, Magnolia Journal, Real Simple and Allrecipes. Through one direct mail program, the company generated 1 million new subscriptions. Another campaign on social media generated close to 50,000 auto-renewing subscriptions last December.
Meredith is particularly excited about Apple News+ which features 30 Meredith magazines, because it will receive guaranteed minimum payments, royalties when consumers spend money on the platform, cost savings from lower customer acquisitions costs and innovative advertising opportunities.
As one of the most successful consumer-based companies in the world, Apples launch of Apple News+ is a strong testament to the power of premium paid content, Harty said. He did not elaborate on the companys agreement with Apple.
Meredith offered the following outlook for the full-year 2019:
- Total company revenue will range between $3.12 billion to $3.16 billion. Last August, the company estimated a full-range between $3.0 billion and $3.2 billion.
- National Media Group revenue will range between $2.26 billion and $2.29 billion.
- Local Media Group revenue will range between $860 million and $870 million.
- Full-year fiscal 2019 earnings from continuing operations will range between $172 million to $180 million and earnings between $2.07 and $2.25 per share.
- The company estimates adjusted EBITDA between $700 million and $710 million, compared to an original estimate between $720 million and $750 million.
- Adjusted earnings per share will range between $6.92 per share and $7.07 per share.
Meredith owns national brands including Martha Stewart Living, Shape, Parents, Health and Magnolia Journal. The company reaches an estimated 175 million unduplicated Americans, including 80% of U.S. millennial women. Meredith has a paid subscription base of more than 40 million and 17 local television stations. Following Merediths acquisition of TIME Inc., the company has been selling off magazines that dont fit with its core competencies. It sold TIME magazine to Salesforces Marc Benioff and wife Lynne for $190 million, and FORTUNE to investor Chatchaval Jiaravanon for $150 million. Sports Illustrated is currently on the bidding block, so it is likely it will be the next to go.
Since the financial report, Merediths stock value has ebbed and flowed. On Thursday, May 9, the day before the report, stock was valued at $59.18 per share, which dropped to $55.80 on May 10. It has since rebounded slightly, ending at $57.39 as of 4:50 p.m. EDT on May 17.
Despite the fickleness of investors, Meredith has a good handle on its audience and knows what types of content they want and will pay money for. Through their acquisition of TIME, Meredith was able to acquire lifestyle brands with similar audiences like People and Entertainment Weekly, while selling off assets that dont fit its portfolio. They have a diversified strategy for growing revenue and are taking their time to appropriately integrate the two brands – Meredith and TIME – together. Their subscription acquisition efforts seem to be paying off, and they even seem to be excited about the exposure through Apple News+ (something we havent heard a lot of). While investors arent particularly impressed, Meredith seems to have a solid plan to wrap up its fiscal year 2019.