As Discovery Channel awaits opening night ratings results for Shark Week, the financial community isn’t sure which way its parent company is swimming lately.
Even before the Shark Week ratings begin to trickle in, the company’s flagship network has encouraging stats. Discovery Channel boasted its highest-rated 2Q across both viewers and men in the 25-54 ad bracket it targets, and in overall audience with L+3 ratings since at least 1994.
The network saw double-digit growth compared to same quarter ’14 in all three metrics, and ranked as the No. 4 cable network in 2Q15 with adults 25-54 – up two positions on the ranker from year ago results, while clocking in at No. 3 with men 25-54, which is up 2 slots on the rankers compared to last 2Q.
The 2Q gains, combined with 1Q15, which was Discovery’s highest-rated quarter yet, makes for Discovery’s highest-rated primetime ever for the first half of a year in A25-54.
Fueling the gains: Deadliest Catch was the No. 1 ranked unscripted series on basic cable in adults 25-54.
Discovery Channel is betting big on sharks. The annual ratings magnet launched over the July 4 weekend with the most hours of programming in its 28-year history and a promise of no more fake stuff, despite the fact the highest-rated program in Shark Week history remains Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives – which, to be fair, ran with a disclaimer noting it was pure horseradish.
CEO David Zaslav needs a good story to tell on August 5, when he talks with the Street about his 2Q earnings — and again on September 29 when the company plans an Investor Day sales pitch.
Many are wary as Discovery engages in tough contract renewal negotiations with Comcast, which is still smarting from Zaslav’s surprisingly sharp challenges to the aborted acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Investors also smell blood as they look at the lackluster ratings at TLC, reports of anemic upfront ad sales, and the hit to overseas revenues as foreign currencies remain weak against the dollar .
Don’t be surprised if the Discovery chief plays up the recent progress at his flagship channel.
It has already resonated with Nomura Securities’ Anthony DiClemente. The ratings uptick under Rich Ross makes the analyst “increasingly confident” about his estimate for a 1% uptick in domestic ad sales in 2Q. He also feels better about Discovery’s contract renewal negotiations with cable and satellite providers, although he warns that profits may suffer due to the company’s “increased marketing spend aimed at increasing the awareness of Discovery’s networks prior to the Comcast deals.”