Discovery Communications Class A Earnings Call Nuggets: Ad Revenue Details and Domestic Ad Growth

Discovery Communications Class A (NASDAQ:DISCA) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Ad Revenue Details

David Bank – RBC Capital Markets: Two questions, I guess the first is, under the category of ‘No Good Deed Goes Unpunished’. 8% ad revenue growth is obviously really strong, but when you think about the pricing you achieved in the upfront. The pricing in the scatter market, the ratings momentum you’ve achieved. I’m kind of curious like, what are the other factors that are sort of arguably maybe holding back that ad revenue from being a little bit stronger given all those factors. The second question is, I guess more for Andy, can you just clarify the impact of the Japan consolidation on both the revenue and expenses in the international division?

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David M. Zaslav – President and CEO: We delivered a little over 8% this quarter, which we felt very good about. We have market share growth of 3%. The market was strong. It was up about 20% from the upfront, but we also began ceding a number of our new networks with advertisers and we still have a ways to go in terms of bringing up the CPM on some channels like Animal Planet, that’s now a top 20 channel for men, ID that’s a number nine channel in America and continues to grow. So we’ll continue to get some additional growth out of that. This quarter continues to look strong, maybe even a little bit stronger than last quarter in terms of pricing. So if we continue to grow our market share, I think you’ll see us in the high-single low-double in domestic.

Andrew Warren – SEVP and CFO: David, just to add to that. Just remember, last year U.S. ad sales were up 13%. So on a two-year basis, it’s tremendous year-over-year growth. To get to your question about Japan, we’re not actually separating or splitting that out separately or quantifying it because it is a business we’re in before with 50% investment and we only increased that to 80%. So on a very bottom line basis it is a fairly de minimis impact, but broadly speaking, as far as the impact on revenue and expenses, for the whole Company, it is less than one point. So I’d just give you a sense of its size, it’s relatively insignificant on a total company basis.

David Bank – RBC Capital Markets: So you wouldn’t say it really impacted international operations then, is that…?

Andrew Warren – SEVP and CFO: It’s consolidated within those numbers, but the impact is fairly small. As I said, it is really less than one points for the total company on both revenue, expense, and profit.

Domestic Ad Growth

Todd Juenger – Sanford Bernstein: If I could follow-up just a little bit back to domestic ad growth. I know you don’t – and I am not expecting that you would disclose anything sort of at a network level, but I wonder if you just would share any comments about sort of the difference between, what I’d call, the flagship network versus the digital tier networks? A lot of the ratings growth, as you pointed out, is coming from the digital tier networks. We know they have lower CPMs. I just wondered when you think about the whole growth of 8%, would you be willing to characterize was the mid-tier networks growing faster than that and the flagship network is growing slower? Or any way you can help us decompose how we think about the growth rates of those different lifecycles of networks?

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David M. Zaslav – President and CEO: Sure, thanks Todd. First, Discovery had a good quarter. It was up about 10%, which was very strong with lot of new series, and Discovery is mostly male and we were able to take advantage of that. TLC was down about 1% or essentially flat the industry itself was down 2%. So TLC did a little bit better than the industry, but we had less premiers in the first quarter. We’re coming back with Long Island Medium, we’re coming back with Breaking Amish, in the summer Honey Boo Boo will come in. So, I think that we expect that we’ll see a little bit more momentum on the women’s side with TLC. I think that would have helped us. The broadcasters were down significantly in prime and in daytime and that put a little bit of a squeeze on the women’s side. So we were able to take advantage of that with TLC, but not as much as we would have liked to and we’re hoping to in this next quarter. ID continued to grow because of that and when you say digital networks, we have TLC and Discovery that are fully distributed, but we also have Animal Planet that’s fully distributed. Animal Planet now is a top 20 network. It’s going to take us some time in order to get our CPM up, but we’re getting double growth there. It’s growing significantly, but also our CPM is growing. So that is a fully distributed network; and when you say digital, we now have ID in over 80 million homes. So 80 million homes, the number nine network in America, number six network in daytime, number five in late-night, yet we’re still not getting the full premium for that. So those would be, what I would call, kind of our big networks with Animal Planet and ID providing some meaningful growth no matter what over the next couple of years, and then the smaller networks, one we – we call them emerging, because they’re continuing to be very fast growing, but Destination America, Velocity, those do have lower CPMs. When I said we’re ceding, we’re trying to get advertisers into them, so they could feel the value of being on those platforms, they could see that we can put up some very strong ratings when we have original content, and that once we get them hooked into those channels, we’ll be able to drive the CPM on that. So I can’t really break it out except to say that I think if we can drive a little bit more of our female demo in the next six months, given where a lot of viewership and advertisers are looking for female, we could maybe even over-index more.

Todd Juenger – Sanford Bernstein: A quick follow-up if you don’t mind. Back on the emerging networks, in terms of distribution growth and there has been a lot of focus on affiliate fees and reset of your negotiations, all that, what is the opportunity there? You’ve got ratings up strongly at a lot of these emerging networks. You’ve invested a lot to rebrand a few of them. How real is the opportunity to grow the distribution further, some of those that are in 40 million, 50 million, 60 million homes?

David M. Zaslav – President and CEO: Well, we did only a few of our deals this year. We’ve talked about the fact that they feather in over the next five years. This year was less than 20%, a little bit more than 10%. So it was a lesser percentage, but we were able to get higher increases. In those deals, we were able to get more distribution for Science, more distribution for Destination America, more distribution for Military. So when we can pick up higher fees and get more distribution, that’s a formula that works very well for us because we get the guaranteed revenue on that extra distribution, but also three of the fastest-growing cable networks in America over the last three years has been ID, which has gone from 50 to over 80, Science which went from 45 to over 72 and Velocity continues to grow aggressively. So if we can get the per sub fees on that. Then not only do we get the guaranteed economics, we get the asset value and the ability to get advertising. So we will be looking for that – in addition to the very simple, what is our actual CAGR on our total sub fee base.

A Closer Look: Discovery Communications Earnings Cheat Sheet>>