There was no announcement Thursday of a sale of The Nielsen Company’s media-oriented magazine group, but CFO Brian West certainly kept the door open for such a sale in his quarterly conference call. Meanwhile, the company reported that total revenues declined 1% in Q3, with the media ratings business up and the publications down – a lot.
The Media segment, of which Nielsen’s US television ratings business is the biggest component, saw Q3 revenues rise 11.2% to $486 million. Some of that was due to both acquisitions and divestitures in 2008, but excluding those portfolio changes, Media revenues still rose 2.9%, led by a 9.1% revenue increase for Nielsen Media North America. That was attributed to increased demand for TV audience measurement services, new business, price increases and the continued expansion of Local People Meter (LPM) measurement.
Adjusted operating income for the Media division was $110 million, up 24.7% from a year ago.
Meanwhile, Business Media revenues dropped 28.5% to $82 million. West told analysts that publishing revenues fell 33%, with the trade shows also down, by 20%. He noted a “continuing slide in the overall advertising market.” After shutting down Radio & Records, Nielsen’s remaining US publications include The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Adweek, Brandweek and Mediaweek.
Adjusted operating income for the Business Media division plunged 54% to $14 million.
Analysts, of course, had read reports just a few hours earlier that Nielsen had struck a deal to sell the US trade pubs to James Finkelstein’s News Communications Inc. Wells Fargo Securities bond analyst Bishop Cheen approached the issue delicately, asking if such a sale was a “front burner” issue for Nielsen.
“You know, Bishop, we get that question periodically. And I think there were some things on the wire yesterday. We never comment on rumor or speculation. But I will reinforce what we said for probably the better part of the last year and a half. It’s that for assets which don’t hit the mark, we’re always looking to work them out of the portfolio. And we’ve done that through the course of the last year – whether it was a specific title or whether it was our SRDS business, whether it was a trade show. We’re always ooking to make sure we’ve got a robust portfolio and we’re always going to be up against ‘chitter-chatter,’ as you put it,” West replied.
Returning to Q3 results, the remaining division, Consumer Services, saw revenues decline 3.8% to $683 million. Adjusted operating income was, however, up 2.6% to $79 million.
So, total revenues were down 1% to $1.25 billion. However, the company noted that adjusting for currency fluctuations, revenues were up 3% in Q3.
RBR-TVBR observation: It’s easy to see why Nielsen might decide that the Business Media segment is more trouble than it’s worth. It accounted for only 7% of revenues in Q3, down from 9% a year earlier. We wait to see whether The Nielsen Company still has three divisions to report at the end of Q4, or only two.