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Earnings: Scripps’ Q1 Profits Rise 22.8 Percent As Revs Rise 6.8 Percent; Interactive Up 23 Percent

It looks like the sputtering ad economy didn’t affect Scripps (NYSE: SSP) too badly in Q1, as net income rose 22.8 percent to $84.1 million, or 51 cents per share, from last year’s $68.5 million (42 cents per share). Meanwhile Q1 revenues gained 6.8 percent to $642 million compared with the same period a year ago. Those positive numbers were boosted by its cable and interactive segments, which helped to offset negative results within the Cincinnati-based media company’s newspaper division and at its local broadcast outlets.

Online: Scripps’ Interactive Media, after some struggles last year, experienced a turnaround in Q1. Interactive, which includes online comparison shopping services Shopzilla and uSwitch, saw Q1 revenue rise 23 percent to $77.5 million, as the segment’s profit swung to positive with $21 million compared with a $15 million loss during the same period a year earlier. The Interactive Media division’s growth in the quarter was attributed to Shopzilla’s higher user traffic as as well as lower expenses at uSwitch in the UK.

Cable: Scripps Networks, which includes the cable TV properties HGTV, Food Network and DIY Network, Q1 revenue grew 15 percent year-over-year to $311 million. Segment profit for the division also increased 15 percent to $147 million. Scripps Networks accounted for roughly half of the company’s consolidated revenue during the first quarter.

Newspapers/local broadcast: The company’s newspapers and TV stations, first quarter operating performance was affected by industry-wide weakness in local advertising sales. Q1revenue at Scripps newspapers was down 8.3 percent, year-over-year, to $156 million. Disappointingly, newspaper online revenue was $10 million, which was flat compared to Q107. Overall, newspaper segment profit for the quarter was $27.6 million versus $29.3 million last year – a 5.8 percent decline. At Scripps Television Station Group, revenues came in at $76 million compared with $76.5 million the same period last year. Q1 segment profit at the TV Station Group was $14.2 million from $16.4 million, year-over-year, for a 13.4 percent decrease.

Earnings release | Webcast (10:00 AM EDT)

Conference call: Q2 cable network performance are shaping up the way this past quarter did. “Guidance is solid,” thanks to strong scatter pricing, with HGTV prices up about 25 percent and Food Network up roughly 40 percent, said Ken Lowe president and CEO. Meanwhile, Scripps has an active interest in acquiring The Tribune Co.’s 31 percent stake in the Food Network — “And that was true pre- Zell and it’s true now,” Low said, referring to Sam Zell, who took over as chairman and CEO of Tribune. “But there are no current talks about making that purchase,” Low added.

— Joe NeCastro, EVP, finance and administration: uSwitch is expected to be profitable for the rest of the year. As for Shopzilla, lower traffic acquisition costs helped that unit’s health.

– Looking ahead, cable costs are likely to be up 12 percent – they were up about 20 percent in Q1 – from marketing and programming investment, particularly HD broadcasts. NeCastro: “For the full year, we expect margins to be the same, though there might be some declines in Q2.”