Scripps Cautious When It Comes to Buying Tribune’s Stake in Food

Scatter pricing, upfront pricing both up

Scripps Networks Interactive CFO Joe NeCastro said today that the company was in no hurry to buy the remaining stake in Food Network still owned by Tribune on the company's second-quarter earnings call. "We're not gonna do anything overly aggressive to overpay for that network," he told investors. "We are keenly aware of the benefits of increased leverage; we just want to make sure we're using it most appropriately."

Tribune emerged from Chapter 11 with a new board of trustees in January; the recovery has prompted much speculation about SNI's eventual purchase of the company's profitable stake in Food Network. Scripps prides itself on owning all of its content and is currently trying to grow some of its smaller channels, including Food sibling Cooking.

Both advertising and affiliate fees were up for Q2. "Scatter CPM pricing was up in the mid teens to low 20s over the broadcast upfront," said NeCastro. He flagged auto and consumer packaged goods as growth areas for SNI's networks (which include Food, HGTV and Travel, among others). "Year over year, scatter pricing is running in the mid-to-high single digits," NeCastro said. "In the just-completed upfront, we finished right at the top of our peers." The company again broke the $1 billion mark in upfront commitments.

Chairman, president and CEO Ken Lowe fielded questions about a la carte—a subject that has returned to the news since Time Warner's Glenn Britt broached the subject (some say disingenuously) in negotiations with CBS over retrans fees. "It's a very remote possibility at this point; it's not something I think is anywhere near in the future even though it's a little bit in the news these days," Loew said. "Really, it gives me a chance to underscore the value of the video package."

Lowe also addressed the company's reticence to dive into the TV Everywhere market, pegging that shyness to discrepancies in measurement. "As measurement gets better and more precise on all these platforms, we'll continue to look at all these platforms and all these devices," he told investors.