Nine triumphs over weak free-to-air market

Nine triumphs over weak free-to-air market

A challenging free-to-air (FTA) market threatened to undo Nine Entertainment (ASX: NEC) in FY19, but the media company pulled up on top.

On a statutory basis, Nine reported a net profit after tax of $234 million, up 12 per cent on FY18.

Meanwhile, group earnings grew by 10 per cent to $424 million.

These relatively strong results are in direct defiance of a weak FTA market and trump Seven West Media's (ASX: SWM) FY19 results significantly.

"To achieve ten per cent EBITDA growth in this cyclically challenging FTA and housing market was a very strong result," says Nine CEO Hugh Marks (pictured).

"It's a validation of our strategy, the success of the investments we have made, and the efforts of our people."

A key highlight for the company was the major merger of Fairfax with Nine which generated a significant bulk of the company's revenue and profits during the financial year despite the pair only officially coming together in December 2018.

The company's results also include contributions from Australian streaming platform Stan, now wholly owned by Nine Entertainment, but exclude regional newspaper group Australian Community Media and Printing which was sold off to former Domain boss Antony Catalano earlier this year.

The group's broadcast arm, Nine Network, reported a revenue decline from $1.1 billion to $1 billion for the year.

The decline was confined to the first half, with second half revenues growing by two per cent as share gains more than offset the impact of the difficult FTA market.

On a ratings basis, Nine attracted a number one commercial network share of 38.3 per cent of the 25 to 54 year old demographic, up 1.3 points on the prior corresponding period and FTA earnings fell by ten per cent or $25 million for the year to $213 million.

Real estate platform Domain (ASX: DHG) saw its revenue dive by 21 per cent as it sought to operate in a challenging property market during FY19.

New listing volumes were down around 12 per cent nationally, but the group managed to soften its loss to just $300,000.

Streaming platform Stan grew its subscriber numbers to 1.7 million in FY19. Nine says the strong exclusive offerings of content like Billions, Who Is America? and Disney content boosted its market position, but with Disney poised to launch its own streaming platform in Australia very soon Nine had better have some exciting shows to launch exclusively to maintain these numbers.

Looking forward, Nine says it is not out of the woods of the soft FTA market.

FTA market conditions remained weak in July, but are improving in August and are set to continue to improve through September.

The company expects the FTA market to soften by low single digits over FY20, particularly offset by growth of at least one revenue share point.

Assuming the market conditions continue as Nine expects the group hopes to report earnings growth on a continuing basis of around 10 per cent in FY20.

Shares in Nine Entertainment are up 5.82 per cent to $1.91 per share at 12.26pm AEST.

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