@ UBS Media Week: E.W. Scripps; Bolt-On Acquisitions; Keeping Shopzilla

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During the final session at UBS Global Media & Communications Conference, E.W. Scripps (NYSE: SSP) CEO Ken Lowe joked that his presentation represented the last thing standing in the crowd’s way of a comfortable evening at home, though judging by the folks here, it doesn’t look like many are ready to wrap up their day anywhere near 5:00 PM. Lowe, who will become the CEO of Scripps Interactive once its spun off from EW Scripps (sometime next year), introduced the new company with a video-heavy presentation, showing clips of the company’s networks and stars. (I was most amused by Blog Cabin on the DIY channel, a show about building a log cabin using viewer input.)

Interactive: Revenues are rapidly starting to contribute meaningfully to the total, with 2007 growth currently estimated at 27 percent. FoodNetwork.com, as the company has trumpeted before, is the top food site in terms of visitors. User-gen site Recipezaar, which the company acquired this year, is in the top ten as well. HGTV and DIY Network are also both in the top ten in the home category. Recently, Scripps launched FrontDoor.com, a real estate search service. After the presentation, Lowe confirmed to me that the company is in talks on a some small, “bolt-on” acquisitions in the interactive space, but he declined to name names.

Shopzilla: “Top online comparison shopping service in the US… [but] I wish I could say it’s been all smooth sailing.” Competition has been fierce, slowing growth and crimping margins. Outwardly, the company is still optimistic about the business. Since September, net revenue growth rate has been in the double digits, while Q4 is now expected to exceed prior expectations. For 2008 Shopzilla and USwitch.com are expected to contribute $55 – $65 million in profits. Goals for the Shopzilla include diversifying its sources of traffic, as well as expansion in Europe. Afterwords, Lowe reiterated to me a denial of rumors that the company is shopping the unit — take that as you will.

Local media: After the colorful Scripps Interactive presentation, COO Rich Boehne came on for a much more subdued look at the remaining local media business. He described 2007 as the “most challenging year in my 25 years in the business.” But, as he emphasized, just because it doesn’t have ‘interactive’ in the name, it doesn’t mean it’s not doing things on this front. The local media business, according to Boehne, is “clearly now a three platform game,” consisting of broadcast, newspapers, and digital. The top priority remains cost containment, though next comes digital. The goal is to lead in local market share, while connecting with national networks, such as Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) (see below). For the newspapers, 2008 revenue is expected (hoped?) to be down in the low single digits.

Yahoo: Boehne is “very bullish on the Yahoo consortium,” claiming that they’re seeing a very quick payoff. HotJobs will account for 5 percent newspaper revenue, maybe more, in the coming year. Strategically: “[It] doesn’t make sense to replicate these platforms and technologies, market by market by market.” “What has been the big surprise is how well everybody has worked together.”

Other digital: The company will be rolling out new community sites, but they’re largely based around verticals (parenting, politics, etc.), rather than geography.

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