TEGNA says cable fees generate more revenue than ads

(Logo: TEGNA/Handout; Graphic: The Desk)

Local television broadcaster TEGNA generated more revenue from cable and satellite carriage fees than from traditional and online commercial advertisements for the first time last year, the company affirmed this month.

That revelation was affirmed during a presentation given to investors and reviewed by The Desk ahead of the company’s acquisition by Standard General, which is expected to close later this year.

The presentation revealed traditional and political broadcast and digital advertisements accounted for more than half of TEGNA’s revenue in 2020, with the company’s broadcast stations bringing in a collective $1.773 billion. Of that mix, $446 million was attributed to political advertising, TEGNA said.

Cable and satellite fees in 2020 accounted for just $1.175 billion in revenue, the company said. That figure jumped to $1.428 billion in 2021, a year-over-year increase of 21 percent. Meanwhile, traditional and digital advertising generated $1.527 billion in 2021, a decrease of 13 percent, the figures reviewed by The Desk showed.

The data suggests TEGNA’s recent months-long dispute with broadcaster Dish Network and its shorter dispute with cable provider Mediacom ultimately resulted in the distributors paying higher carriage fees in order to once again provide TEGNA’s local television stations to its customers. It also shows TEGNA will continue to impose higher carriage fees on cable and satellite companies going forward.

TEGNA says it is the largest independent owner of NBC affiliates in the country, with 42 percent of its local stations carrying NBC programs. Its NBC stations include KUSA-TV (Channel 9, Denver), WXIA (Channel 11, Atlanta) and KPNX (Channel 12, Phoenix). CBS affiliates make up 30 percent of its local broadcast portfolio, while Fox affiliates comprise 6 percent.

Its prominence with NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates may help TEGNA justify higher fees from cable and satellite companies: Along with local news and general interest programming, all three currently hold broadcast rights to Sunday afternoon and evening NFL games.

On Monday, TEGNA said its first quarter revenue for 2022 was $774 million, an increase of 6 percent compared to the previous year.

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