MediaWorks reports loss after 'destabilising year'

MediaWorks Auckland logo
MediaWorks CEO Michael Anderson said internal disruption was partly to blame for the result (Newshub.)

Broadcaster MediaWorks, owner of Newshub, has reported falling revenues in its TV business in 2016, with the entire TV and radio business posting an operating loss of just under $15 million.

The television arm of the business took the biggest earnings hit, pulling in $130.1 million - $16.7 million dollars less than the previous 12 months.

MediaWorks chief executive officer Michael Anderson called 2016 a "destabilising year", saying "we don't expect to be reporting results like that again".

Mr Anderson said the company suffered internal disruption with the loss of key on-air and management personnel. Former CEO Mark Weldon was among those to depart in 2016.

"We gave away more share than we should have but we didn't have a clear focus - we do now," Mr Anderson said.

The coming year would see even more of a focus on local content, both news and entertainment. Mr Anderson said this was a key part of the TV business model.

"We're trawling the world for formats, making sure we're ahead of the curve," he said, citing The Project and the upcoming Married At First Sight NZ.

The overall TV market was continuing to fall but MediaWorks was closing the audience share gap against TVNZ, Mr Anderson said.

The company’s digital revenue also dropped from $11.9 million to $11.1 million. Radio remained steady, with revenue falling $400,000 to $156.9 million.

The company’s net loss after tax of $14.8 million in 2016 was similar to 2015's $14.5 million loss. However, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were $12 million, up from $9.1 million.

The trading EBITDA was $18.6 million when adjusted for restructuring and one-off costs, including $5.5 million paid out as part of a 2013 $8.7 million incentive scheme for the board and senior management. The payout was triggered in May 2015 when private equity group Oaktree acquired 100 percent of the business.

The Mediaworks TV business suffered an impairment charge reflecting a $5.7 million reduction in the value of broadcast licenses, programme rights and goodwill.

The company was also in breach of debt covenants relating to its loans, but lender Westpac has agreed to a waiver of these breaches until June 30, 2017.

Chief financial officer Ciara McGuigan said confidence had now returned to the company, in particular its sales team.

She said the company was ahead of its EBITDA targets for the first quarter of 2017, "the best start we've had for a while."