Until E.W. Scripps (NYSE: SSP) actually completes spin off of Scripps Networks Interactive, management will probably have to answer the ‘why’ question a few more times. The official reasons, which CEO Kenneth Lowe could probably recite in his sleep: better focus from management, more accurate stock-based compensation, and more visibility for investors into the working of each side of the business. After going over that, Lowe and CFO Joseph NeCastro discussed strategy at the Citibank conference.
— Split: June 30 is the target date for the split, with the two companies hoping to trade independently on July 1. The company is still working through the regulatory issues, including the IRS’ ruling on taxes, but it’s not seeing any hurdles.
— Interactive: Recent acquisitions: Recipezaar, a $25 million acquisition, is very much in line with what the company will do going forward. Overall goal is to dominate on the web the way the company dominates certain categories on cable. The site is different form the main FoodNetwork.com, since it’s user-gen. Millions of uniques over the holiday season. Pickle: video technology playing an important technological role across the company’s sites. Lowe mentioned Scripps Interactive President Deanna Brown, who came from Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), saying she’s done a ‘great job’ of repositioning the assets and finding future acquisitions.
— Shopzilla: “Rough year, but we ended the year very well.” Long term, the goal is to build bridges between Shopzilla and the other properties.
— Yahoo: Yahoo and HotJobs consortium contributing to an increase in help-wanted advertising — very bullish on this for the year. The consortium can and will likely be expanded to other classified areas and other kinds of ads. NeCastro: “Yahoo is interested in expanding the relationship to other kinds of ad sales… lots of opportunities there.
— Ratings and housing market: The company claims strong ratings across its primarily home and lifestyle TV lineup and so far it’s not seeing any fallout from the housing market. Viewers haven’t stopped watching the housing shows on HGTV and advertisers haven’t slowed down. NeCastro: “We feel fortunate so far.”
—Writer’s strike: So far, there hasn’t been any impact from the writer’s strike, but if the strike continues for some time, the company hopes to see a benefit. Viewers that are tired of re-runs may jump over to cable — that’s the hope, anyway.