Overview: I like Tribune Media Company at $36. I’ve owned it for almost a year and I continue to believe that it is trading at a substantial discount. Tribune is asset rich and is beginning to monetize its real estate assets. The company continues to build WGN as the total audience is up 51% y/y. WGN has three very promising original series’ which will drive audience growth. The potential monetization of spectrum could represent a cash flow boost, although there is much speculation about demand and price per market. The company operates in markets such as New York and Hartford where demand is likely to be strong. A sum of the parts valuation shows lots of value.
The United States broadcasting market has produced moderate growth in recent years and is expected to produce slightly lower rates of growth over the next decade. The United States is easily the largest global market for broadcasting and much of this is due to the investment in content and the popularity of this content abroad. Growth is driven by advertising and subscriptions growth, with advertising being very strong despite the trends which are moving advertising revenues into digital spheres. The broadcasting TV market has produced a 2.2% CAGR over the last five years. It is expected to slow to 1.2% over the next five years.
The value of Tribunes 42 owned or operated broadcast television stations is largely dictated by the quality of the content. Content quality is determined by total audience to make the product marketable to advertising businesses. WGN is thriving in this area with their Outsiders and Underground original series’. The rise in popularity of downloading programs, both legally and illegally, is having an impact on the market.
Cable networks are direct competitors of television broadcasters for viewership, advertising dollars and TV ratings. Cable television programming has historically been the largest rival to major broadcasters in terms of total viewership. Viewers who subscribe to the expanding range of alternative television content providers, which include basic and premium cable packages consisting of hundreds of unique programming options, are likely to reduce viewership of traditional broadcast programming. The number of cable TV subscriptions is expected to decrease in 2017. However, this negative trend will likely not have a large effect on broadcasters. Many people, myself included, have cut the cord and have purchased an HD antenna enabling us to watch traditional broadcast programming.
The major driver in broadcasting growth is disposable income which is affected by labor market growth, unemployment and interest rate changes. In addition, disposable income is a key determinant of retail sales and expenditures on other goods and services which can directly influence advertising expenditure on TV. Per capital disposable income is expected to increase in 2017.
Changes in the Market
In the last five years, operators in the television broadcasting industry have undergone structural changes to contend with stagnating revenues. Broadcast revenue is largely dependent on sales of advertising spots, which are determined by their advertisers’ corporate profit and the disposable incomes of their viewers. Although advertising expenditure has increased along with rising disposable income and corporate profit in the last five years, the media landscape has become increasingly competitive. Consumers are shifting towards online media for their news and entertainment, prompting advertisers to shift their spending away from traditional television broadcasting. In addition, platforms like Hulu and Netflix directly compete with industry broadcasters to provide new content.
Advertising expenditure has recovered strongly since the financial crisis. However, advertisers now have a wider range of channels to reach their audiences. Historically, advertising and marketing has been spread across broadcast television, radio and cable, print media, and direct mail marketing. The advent of the internet and social media has dramatically boosted media access through social networks, streaming platforms, RSS feeds and podcasts. Advertisers have realized the power of online media, which allows for targeted ad campaigns that were impossible with previous forms of broad-based advertising. Social media networks can tailor ads to specific demographics, attracting a greater portion of advertising budgets. Over the same period, people have adopted digital video recorders (DVR) and on-demand programming. Together, they have decreased audiences attention to TV commercials which has lowered the price that advertisers are willing to pay broadcast networks for ad time. Services like Netflix, Hulu and cable-free subscription packages from HBO and Showtime enable more content variety and viewer control. The accelerating media competition will be a headwind to the broadcast industry’s growth prospects.
Broadcast TV Networks
Broadcast TV networks are composed of TV stations that release the same programming through several stations (i.e affiliates). This strategy saves time and cuts costs associated with programming for separate stations which allows broadcasters to negotiate better prices for advertising to a mass audience. The bulk of airtime is made up of programming developed for national broadcasting but certain time slots are designated for local or regional programming.
Next Ten Years
Broadcasters are now receiving monetary compensation from cable operators through retransmission fees. Demanding payments for the retransmission of content has forced cable operators to charge more for their packages. This revenue stream has reduced volatility for broadcasters because cable contracts are typically renewed annually.
Rising advertisement spending and disposable income will support the industry over the next decade. Total US advertising expense is expected to grow at an annualized 4.4% over the next decade. Competition from new media that allows advertisers to target specific audiences for less will make attracting TV broadcasting ad revenue more difficult.
The major development in the industry over the next decade will be interactive TV. This change will customize viewing experiences for audiences. By making TV interactive, broadcasters will be able to offer advertisers a more direct way of selling products and services to targeted audiences. Broadcasters will have features that allow a viewer to order a product in a commercial just with a click of the remote. Features like this may not be received well by online streaming audiences who prefer zero commercials. This opportunity has the potential to boost ad revenues and could possibly take market share away from social media platforms.
Tribune Media Segment Overview
Television and Entertainment
This is the larger of the two segments and includes Tribunes 42 broadcasting stations. This segment accounts for 85% of Tribunes revenues. A breakdown of this segment is shown below.
The primary drivers of the business are advertising and retransmission fees. As Tribune operates in some of the best quality broadcasting markets, it supports advertising revenue to grow modestly going forward. TRCO owns or operate local television stations in each of the nation’s top five markets and seven of the top ten markets by population. Tribunes stations and local news reach is approximately 50 million U.S. households in the aggregate, representing approximately 44% of all U.S. households.
The business owns a national general entertainment cable network, WGN America, which is distributed to more than 80 million households nationally. In 2013 the company created Tribune Studios to source and produce original and exclusive content for WGN America and local television stations. Tribune Studios provides alternatives to acquired programming across a variety of segments. WGN has three hit series’, Underground, Outsiders, and Salem. These three are helping drive retransmission fees and audience growth. The table below presents WGN’s lineup of series. This table does not include Salem as it is their newest series.
Digital and Data Segment
The Digital and Data segment is comprised of a company named Gracenote. The company provides music, video, sports, and auto metadata to users who are often brands.
Gracenote Music is one of the largest sources of music data in the world, featuring music data for more than 235 million tracks, which helps power over a billion mobile devices including smart phones, tablets and laptops and many of the world’s most popular streaming. Music data includes a variety of content such as artist name, album name, track name, music genre, origin, era, tempo, mood, as well as album cover art and artist imagery. Gracenote Music derives the majority of its revenue from licensing its music data, software and services in the B2B segment to music services and to Tier 1 suppliers to the world’s leading automakers.
The video segment provides data around TV shows and movies, such as descriptions, genres, cast and crew details, actor long- and short-form biographies, imagery, TV schedules and listings, TV episode and season information and unique program IDs. Gracenote Video derives the majority of its revenue from cable, satellite, online, consumer electronics and other business-to-business (“B2B”) channels.
The sports segment provides live data and statistics from over 4,500 leagues and competitions, such as the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, Premier League, F1, Bundesliga, Tour de France, Wimbledon and the Olympics, among others.
Gracenote Auto provides Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) technology into any car’s audio system to identify music playing from various sources including AM/FM and satellite radio, CDs or streaming services and deliver relevant metadata and cover art. In December 2015, Gracenote launched its first audio technology, Gracenote Dynamic EQ, designed to help automakers and OEMs automatically tune connected car audio systems to the optimal equalizer settings for individual songs based on genre, mood and release date.
Today, data powers the algorithms that make movie and music recommendations possible for popular on-demand video and streaming music services. Demand for data has grown from consumers, and therefore distributors. Gracenote has a large variety of distributors including companies that deliver music, video and sports content to consumers through devices, platforms and applications. Gracenote is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this increased demand for entertainment data as it provides data on a large scale in the four largest entertainment categories – TV, movies, music, and sports.
Tribune owns the majority of the real estate and facilities used in the operations of the business. The real estate portfolio comprises 74 properties after its recent sales. In April, TRCO entered into an agreement to sell a property in Pennsylvania. On May 5th, TRCO entered into agreement for the sale of the north block of the LA Times Square property and the Olympic Printing Plant facility in LA. (A previously agreement for the sale of the LA Times Square property was terminated in Q1’16). It is estimated that the entire real estate portfolio is worth between $1 billion and $1.1 billion. Management has estimated it at $1 billion and said on August 30th that the recent sales are in line with this valuation.
Tribune holds a variety of investments in broadcasting and digital assets. The two large investments that produce the most cash flows are in the TV Food Network and CareerBuilder. Tribune owns 31% of the TV Food Network and 32% of CareerBuilder.
TV Food Network
The TV Food Network has two television networks, The Food Network and the Cooking Channel. TRCO’s partner in TV Food Network is Scripps Networks Interactive, Inc. (“Scripps”), which owns a 69% interest in TV Food Network and operates the networks on behalf of the partnership. Food Network programming is divided into a daytime block known as “Food Network in the Kitchen” and a primetime lineup branded as “Food Network Nighttime”. “In the Kitchen” is dedicated to instructional cooking programs, while “Nighttime” features food-related entertainment programs, such as cooking competitions and reality TV shows. As of February 2016, Food Network is available to approximately 97,652,000 pay television households (83.9% of households with television) in the United States. The Cooking Channel focuses on providing content around food information and instructional cooking. As of February 2016, Cooking Channel is available to approximately 63,772,000 pay television households (54.8% of households with television) in the United States.
CareerBuilder.com, is the largest job website in North America on the basis of traffic and revenue. CareerBuilder offers a variety of services including talent management software, recruiting platforms, and employee retention solutions. CareerBuilder operates in over 65 markets and operates websites in the United States, Europe, Canada, Asia and South America. Tribune’s partners in CareerBuilder are TEGNA Inc. and The McClatchy Company, which together own a 68% interest in CareerBuilder.
On February 24, 2016 Tribune announced a massive $400 million buyback. As of August 5, 2016 they had purchased $96 million. Once completed, this buyback program will allow management to repurchase over 13% of the company. Repurchase programs of this size cannot go unnoticed by investors due to the sheer size. Actions speak louder than words and management is taking advantage of an undervalued stock. Additionally, shareholders are getting paid to wait for the market to understand the story. The stock yields about 2.8% which is very generous.
Tribune’s broadcasting business will be supported by the strong markets they operate in. Owning or operating affiliates in seven of the top ten markets will help generate continued advertising growth.
The broadcasting business provides a stable operating environment. However, political spending drives advertising revenues which is reflected in the 2016 and 2018 estimates. The amount of political spending as been a bit disappointing during the presidential campaigns. Neither candidate is spending as much as anticipated. The distribution between traditional media and social media is as expected.
Tribune Media is a sum of the parts story. The company has two primary segments in broadcasting and digital but also holds many valuable assets. These assets are being undervalued by the market. As the company begins to monetize some and grow others, I believe the market will notice the massive discount the company currently trades at.
A sum of the parts valuation indicates the stock is worth $64. This represents 80% upside. There is an ongoing FCC spectrum auction that should be over in the next 6 weeks. The spectrum market has support from cord-cutters purchasing HD antennas to watch broadcasting stations. There continues to be a lack of spectrum in the market and I expect this to continue. The outcome of this auction could be a near term catalyst for the stock.
I have owned the stock for almost a year and as of today, it is a loss (Average price about $37). I continue to believe the stock is trading at a massive discount. I am comfortable with the valuations of their investments and the real estate portfolio. It doesn’t appear that they have many level 3 investments which gives me confidence in the $1 billion valuation they have placed on the real estate portfolio. I continue to like the 2.8% dividend yield and the large repurchase program in place. I believe the market will begin to see the value in this company in the next 12 months.