Crave growth drives good results for Bell Media

Although TV ad revenue was down due in part to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the telco and media giant boasted a strong performance in various segments.
Bell Media pic

Revenues are up slightly for BCE, the vertically integrated giant that owns Bell Media and operates Bell Canada’s phone, cable and internet services. The company pulled in just under $6 billion for the quarter ended Sept. 30, up 1.8% from the $5.9 billion it pulled in the same quarter of last year.

Media revenues also saw a modest boost, up 2.7 year-over-year. With $751 million in revenue, the lift was mainly due to subscriber base growth from Bell Media’s SVOD, Crave – which in the last year has re-branded and added a tier with access to HBO shows, including the ratings juggernaut Game of Thrones. As of August, Crave boasts 2.7 million subscribers.

Crave’s gains offset lower advertising revenue, which dipped in part due to the non-recurrence of revenues generated in Q3 2018 from the FIFA World Cup Soccer broadcast. Although BCE would not specify the funds brought in from advertising – which includes TV as well as radio, digital and its OOH network, Astral – it stated that advertising revenue was up over Q3 when excluding the World Cup from the mix.

TV performance improved, which the company attributed to benefits from federal election coverage on conventional and CP24. Viewership across the board has been strong, says Bell with a 21% increase in viewership among adults 18 to 49 for the 2018 2019 broadcast year. Additionally, RDS, its French-language specialty sports network, increased overall viewership by 16%. Sports highlights for TSN and RDS in Q3 included the U.S. Open Women’s Final, which saw an average audience (across the two networks) of 3.4 million viewers.

The financial report comes a day after Bell Media unveiled a long-term that gives it exclusive rights to programming from the upcoming streaming service HBO Max. The deal, which comes into effect next year, will bolster Crave’s current offering with a library of content including thriller The Sisterhood, helmed by Denis Villeneuve and based on Frank Herbert’s Dune novel series, a reboot of Gossip Girl, Mindy Kaling project College Girl and the dark comedic thriller The Flight Attendant.

On the radio side, Bell Media’s network (which includes TSN Radio, CHUM-FM, Newstalk 1010, CJAD and others) reached an average audience of 16.2 million listeners listening to a cumulative 70 million hours per week. On digital, Bell Media reached 22.2 million unique online visitors monthly, with 445 million page views and 827 million minutes spent online each month.

Additionally, Astral’s OOH business saw lift in Q3.

Media adjusted EBITDA increased by 24.2% to $226 million, which was the result of higher revenue and a 4.4% reduction in operating costs.

Wireless operating revenue increased 3.5% to $2,348 million, while wireline operating revenue was up 0.2% to $3,066 million.

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