Steven Swartz, president and CEO of the privately held Hearst Corp., says the company managed a seventh straight year of record profit in 2017 despite an increasingly difficult media content environment.
In his annual state-of-the-company letter to employees, Swartz said total company revenue was flat compared with 2016 at $10.8 billion.
Last year “was another great year to be a consumer of media products but less so to be a provider of that content,” he wrote. “While platform companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Netflix thrived through their dominance of advertising and e-commerce channels, many individual media brands struggled to get their share of the advertising pie and consumers bought fewer television bundles or magazine subscriptions.”
A bright spot for Hearst, the CEO emphasized, was its Business Media unit. Decidedly less splashy than the company’s storied portfolio of magazines, television stations or cable networks, its assets span healthcare, aviation safety and financial services. The division accounted for 28% of total company profit in 2017, Swartz said, a share that has more than tripled over the past decade and will continue to climb.
As to the company’s more traditional media holdings, Swartz said the acquisition this year of Rodale, publisher of magazines such as Men’s Health, will “give our magazine business a shot in the arm.” He also noted ratings improvement at A&E and strides toward an OTT extension by the company’s other part-owned cable TV empire, ESPN.
Hearst’s 30 local TV stations are in a good position heading into the new year, he said, thanks to the Winter Olympics and mid-term political ad spending. “With elections and Olympics back on the agenda, Hearst Television will have a strong year in 2018, and we expect the company’s revenue to grow along with it.” The station group also contributed significant revenue in 2017 due to a rare opportunity to sell off spectrum in the auction organized by the FCC.