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Tribune Media’s TV and Digital Revenues Tick Up – But Not Enough for Wall Street

Peter Liguori-led company’s Q3 earnings clock in right at — or perhaps a few cents below — analyst expectations

Tribune Media fell shy of Wall Street’s revenue expectations in the third quarter of 2015, despite positive momentum from both TV and digital divisions — but the company more or less hit analysts’ earnings per share (EPS) predictions.

During the measured three-month period, sales ticked up year over year at both the TV/Entertainment segment as well as the Digital/Data one. Real estate revenue slipped in the opposite direction, but not enough to quell the overall 3 percent growth.

Market analysts had forecast Tribune Media’s EPS clocking it at $0.29 on $493.76 million in revenue, per Yahoo Finance; Zacks predicted earnings would come in two pennies higher per share. Yahoo’s consensus was dead-on as far as EPS, though it over-estimated sales, which actually came in at $488.6 million. The reported figures showed Zacks was a bit overambitious profit-wise, with Tribune just missed that group’s mark.

Net income came in at $27.9 million, down from Q3 2014’s $38 million. Still, Tribune execs seem pleased about — or at least encouraged by — the growth in retransmission revenues, carriage fees and core advertising sales.

“Our solid third quarter results reflect the consistent focus we have on our long-term growth strategies,” said president and CEO Peter Liguori (pictured above). “We delivered growth across all our key revenue streams – advertising, carriage fees and retransmission fees — and converted WGN America to a basic cable network 18 months ahead of our initial schedule.

“We see clear and compelling evidence that sports and news programming, especially in major markets, continues to accelerate the growth of our local station business,” he continued. “Our investment in high-quality original content is driving revenue growth now via increased carriage fees for WGN America and is expected to do so in the future through a series of distribution platforms.

“As a result of these focused initiatives, we continue to generate value for our MVPD and advertising partners, and create highly appealing programming for our audiences. In the near term, we are seeing encouraging trends in the advertising marketplace and believe we are well positioned to reach the upper half of our consolidated Adjusted EBITDA guidance range for 2015,” Liguori concluded his prepared remarks. “Looking to the future, we are confident that we have the right strategies in place to continue to deliver strong operating results as well as return long-term sustainable value to our shareholders.”

Tribune Media missed both its sales and earnings expectations last quarter, so one out of two is a step in the right direction.

TRCO stock closed Monday at $40.21 per share, down $0.32 — or minus 0.79 percent. The company declared a $0.25 per share cash dividend this month.

AT&T and Tribune Media reached a retransmission agreement late last month after failing to come to terms on the multiyear deal during initial negotiations. The two needed to go beyond the self-imposed extension to make it happen, but it’s in place.

Executives will lead a conference call Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. ET, discussing the Q3 results. Tribune Media split from the company’s publishing arm last year.