Meredith's CEO Presents at Deutsche Bank 21st Annual Global Media, Internet and Telecom Conference (Transcript)

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Meredith Corporation (NYSE:MDP)

Deutsche Bank 21st Annual Global Media, Internet and Telecom Conference Transcript

March 4, 2013 3:00 PM ET


Steve Lacy - Chairman and CEO

Joe Ceryanec - Chief Financial Officer


Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

Well, let's get going with Meredith Corporation next up here in the track. I'm really pleased to welcome CEO -- Chairman and CEO, Steve Lacy; and CFO, Joe Ceryanec. I really can't think of a company that I'd rather talk to at this point in time. I'm sure there's not much going on for you, so it wasn't hard to come down here. But thank you for taking time out of your schedule. Why don't we start out, Steve, would like to say a few words, right?

Steve Lacy

Yeah. Yeah.

Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

And then, we’ll talk a little bit about Q&A and then we’ll go out to the audience.

Steve Lacy

Absolutely. Perfect. Perfect. Yeah. Thank you very much, Matt, and it is a great pleasure to be here today especially since we left about a foot of snow in the Midwest. So we are very pleased to be here.

Of course we have our Safe Harbor slide, because there are some forward-looking statements that we’ll make and just remind you of various factors that can affect our business going forward.

I’ll begin this morning with a brief overview of the Meredith Corporation for anyone of you who may not be familiar with us and then discuss our National Media Group growth priorities. Then Joe Ceryanec, our CFO will bring you up-to-date on the Local Media Group and our total shareholder return financial strategy.

There are just a couple of points we’d like you to remember about Meredith. First and foremost, we have built a very powerful media and marketing company overtime and that our connection to the individual consumer really remain very strong across each and everyone of these platforms and we’ll talk about that a bit more.

We have demonstrated overtime operational excellence and value creation for our shareholders and we are quite committed to our total shareholder return strategy. We paid a dividend now for a very long period of time recently raised it and over the last year our dividend has been yielding between 4% and 5%.

Looking at the company taken as a whole, we generate about $1.5 billion in media and marketing revenue. Our National Media Group is in fact the leading media company in the United States focused primarily on women through powerhouse brands including Better Homes and Gardens, Parents, and our recent acquisition of

Our business-to-business marketing agency Meredith Xcelerated Marketing has major relationships with clients such as Kraft, Chrysler and Lowe’s, and expertise across digital, social mobile and database marketing.

And our Local Media business that Joe Ceryanec will tell you about reaches about 10% of the U.S. households and is on pace to deliver record ever financial performance in our fiscal 2013 which will end this coming June 30th.

International Media Group we have very strategically expanded our audience overtime, serving adult American women from the very earlier stages of family formation through her empty-nest years and we are certainly the most focused media company on women.

I told our brands reach about 100 million unduplicated women each and every month and 40 million digital unique visitors on a monthly basis as well. We have a great mix of television stations across the country and as I mentioned, they are delivering really, really strong performance in our current fiscal year.

We successfully extended both our National and our Local business, really offering our consumer customer the flexibility to access our compelling content on whatever platform she prefers leading to growing audience engagement across the board.

We have also built scale across these platforms allowing our advertising and marketing client a variety of opportunities to reach a very engaged consumer audience and sell their products through to the individual consumer.

Here we have some highlights for the first half of our year and for us that’s the period July through December of 2012. Our Local Media business finished a record ever political season with strong underpinnings of non-political advertising as well and we recently extended our largest affiliation agreements with CBS and FOX.

In our National Media Group our recent acquisition of Rachael Ray, FamilyFun and the very powerful Allrecipes brand have helped us deliver advertising growth in this business and we’re very, very pleased with how those acquisitions are being integrated into our portfolio.

In our Agency business, Meredith Xcelerated Marketing, I've never seen a stronger pipeline of new business activity that we’re working on in the early goings of calendar ‘13 leading us to feel very, very positive about growth in that business in this calendar ‘13 year. And we delivered about 45% return to our shareholders as a result of our strong TSR financial strategy.

So moving now to our National Media Group, here is a series of growth initiatives that I'll just give you the highlights on very quickly and I think the next slide is probably one of the most important, that while we have been building a very robust digital audience. We have continued to grow readership across our print property.

A lot of that has to do with the type of content we create which tends to be evergreen rather than time sensitive, and I think it also has to do with the strength and durability of our brands. And our digital audience grew significantly during the last year actually doubled as a result of the acquisition of Allrecipes.

From an ad category standpoint, we are clearly the market leaders in monthly food advertising and with Allrecipes we now have a strong leg into digital food advertising as well.

We’re clearly the category killer in the parenthood business with the stable brands that we have assembled around the woman's role in caring for her children and for many, many years we have been and continue to be the category killer in the home advertising category as well, led by Better Homes and Gardens, and a whole variety of Better Homes and Gardens branded products.

We are aggressively expanding beyond those core areas of advertising strength to beauty, retail, financial services and also automotive especially import automotive that is reaching out more aggressively to women than you might see on the domestic side.

Our advertising market share has in fact grown overtime and on the left-hand side of the slide we have our advertising performance compared to our competitive set and on the right-hand side you can see the growth compared to our -- to the industry taken as a whole. We have actually doubled our share over the last decade and had more share growth than any of our traditional competitors.

To continue that market share growth, we work on innovative sales programs such as the Meredith Sales Guarantee that we launched about a year go with 12 flagship brands. We are now starting to get the early stages of results from that endeavor and you're going to see us be very, very loud in the marketplace over the next 60 to 90 days with those results which are very, very compelling from an ROI perspective for our advertising customers.

Bringing all of our brand capabilities together we have also built a strong brand licensing business anchored by about 3000 SKUs of Better Homes and Gardens product in every Wal-Mart store across the country that program is expanding as we move through our fiscal year and I think we’re going to see very, very strong results in calendar ‘13. In addition to that we have a growing real estate franchise and about 25 licensing arrangements across the globe for our brands.

Our Digital business is growing very rapidly and the acquisition of, the largest food site across the globe has really compile that to on all new level causing us to be number two in the women's lifestyle category and number three in beauty, again which is a very important growing category of advertising for us. We reach about 40 million unique visitors. Our goal with the acquisition of Allrecipes is to drive that audience to about 60 million unique when we’re here in 2015.

Mobile media, including smartphones and tablets are certainly an important component of that consumer reach. We have 10 mobile sites driving about 35% of our total digital audience and are apps have generated about 22 million downloads in the recent past.

We’ve made huge stride in extending our brands to the tablet platform as well, which we think is an important opportunity for us to not only reach the Gen Y audience in a very effective way but overtime to eliminate investments in paper, printing and postage.

As it relates to our traditional magazine subscriptions, we’re also finding a very powerful way to drive those transactions online and help us move away from traditional direct mail and that is a powerful financial lift for us as well. And we make about $5 in incremental profit for each digital order and here you can see our growth projections for our digital subscriptions as we look into the future, and we’re feeling very, very good about that important growth initiative.

I’ll close the National Media Group discussion with a quick review on Meredith Xcelerated Marketing. Over the last five years we have in fact built a very powerful set of capabilities across digital CRM, social mobile media, database marketing and created very important comprehensive programs for our clients.

As I said earlier, we've got the strongest pipeline of new business that I've seen in the 15 years that I have in fact been with Meredith and we’ve landed some great new pieces of business already in calendar ‘13.

So now Joe will bring us up-to-date on Local Media and TSR, and then we’ll jump to the Q&A. Thank you very much.

Joe Ceryanec

Thanks, Steve. Good afternoon. As we look at our Local Media business, I’d say, there’s really three priorities that we focus on. First is growing our ratings and being able to monetize those ratings through non-political revenue. Second, capitalize on the every other year political cycles. And third increase the revenue we generate from non-traditional advertising sources such as retransmission fees.

You may have seen just this morning we announced that we reach an agreement with the Hallmark Channel to syndicate our Better Show on Hallmark for the next two years. So again that would fit into the non-advertising revenue category.

So we are very keen on driving our local stations to be number one in the local markets and growing our local news ratings, which translates into our ability to grow revenues in those markets.

As we look at how we’ve done the past three years. You can see that we've actually grown our non-political ad revenues over the last three years and that’s grown at about 5% per year since 2009.

When we look at the non-political revenue, we just finished the political season and we delivered $38 million of political revenue this past -- first half of our fiscal ’13, which for us is a record high and is particularly impressive given that typically we do better in non-presidential cycles than presidential cycles. When we look at our markets our performance was particularly strong in our Hartford and Las Vegas stations.

When we put our non-political ad revenues and political ad revenues together which you can see on this slide, we’ve also driven impressive gains in total revenue. We grew the combined revenue from fiscal 2009 to ‘11 by 8% and then we’ve grown that again by 6% from the political season of 2011 to the political season of 2013.

A lot of this is due to the rebound of automotive, which is our number one category along with the professional services category. As we look at how we've done versus our industry. We've outperform the industry the last five straight years due primarily to our station mix, as well as our strong operational focus. And like the previous slide, these are total revenues, so you can see the every other year phenomena of political revenue.

And lastly as we wrap the Local Media Group, I wanted to give an update on where we stand with our network affiliation. We have one station in Nashville which is an NBC affiliate and that affiliation agreement expires in December of 2013. Right now, we do not anticipate have any -- having any issues re-upping that agreement.

Also in the past six months, we removed our station affiliation agreements with both CBS and Hartford. So now that we’ve got affiliation agreements, I’m sorry, CBS and FOX. So now we have agreements that extend us through 2016 to 2017.

As we look at our retransmission revenue this fiscal year given that we renewed the station affiliation agreements with CBS and FOX, we will now start paying reverse retrans compensation.

As we look at our last fiscal year so our year ended June 30 of ’12, we generated about $28 million of revenue from retrans and we had zero cost of offsetting that. As we moved into 2013, we are renewing our agreements with the MSO's and satellite companies, so we expect that $28 million of revenue to grow to almost $50 million.

On the flipside, we will now start sharing that revenue if you will with the networks with CBS and Fox. So we estimate that we will have about $20 million of expense offsetting that revenue stream this year. So we expect to be about net operating profit flat, maybe up slightly in our fiscal ‘13. Although, we do expect that that net operating profit will grow significantly as we move into 2014 and beyond.

So, I’d close my section with a review of our financial strategy, which really starts with the ability of Meredith to generate substantial cash flows. And if you follow us, you will remember that about a year and a half ago, we launched what we call our total shareholder return strategy, which really has three components.

First, we significantly increased our dividend back in October of 2011 and it’s now paying a $1.63 per share, which is about a 4% yield. We also announced $100 million share buyback program and finally, we announced even with the increased dividend we would have enough free cash to make strategic investments and grow our market position.

So we do have a very strong track record of growing our dividend. We just announced about a month ago that we were increasing the dividend by 6.5%, which is on top of the 50% we increased the dividend in October of ’11. We paid dividends for 66 straight years and with this most recent raise, we’ve now increased that dividend every year for the past 20 years. And as we look over the last decade, the CAGR on our dividend has been 16% annual growth rate.

As I mentioned, we also reinitiated our share buyback program since we launched the TSR program, we've repurchased about $38 million of our own stock and while still maintaining a very conservative debt profile. Right now, we are levered at a little bit under 1.5 times, which really gives us a lot of flexibility to use our free cash flow. And if you look at this chart, you can see even after the significant dividend increase in our fiscal 2012, we still had over $80 million of free cash available for further acquisitions, the expansion of our digital capabilities that Steve talked about whether it’s mobile or tablet.

And growing through acquisitions in either our National Media portfolio, or the Local Media business we just talked about. So as -- we’ve looked over the last decade and this is a chart we’ve been using for a couple of years and it continues to hold true. We’ve generated a little over $2 billion of cash flow over that 10-year period. And we’ve returned about half of that cash flow to our shareholders in the form of dividends and share repurchases, and we’ve reinvested about the other half in capital acquisition or CapEx as well as acquisitions. And if we are standing here 10 years from now, we would like to be able to show you a consistently balanced use of cash, about half reinvesting in the business and half rewarding our shareholders.

So as we looked at our financial strategy, this is our current guidance for the quarter ended March 31, 2013, which is $0.65 to $0.70 which is consistent what we said when we announced our second quarter earnings. And we expect that our full fiscal year, the range still remains from $2.60 to $2.95.

So let me close our prepared comments with, what we believe is a very strong investment thesis. First, we are a powerful media and marketing company with trusted national brands that reach 100 million women each month. In MXM, we’ve built a leading full-service marketing agency and we operate a great group of television stations in very attractive markets.

We believe our management team is experienced, proven and entered for the long haul and are committed to balancing growth to return shares or shareholder capital to shareholders. And lastly, we’ve recently been executing strategies to grow our revenues, our profit and our free cash flow and as I mentioned, we’ve grown our dividend 20 years straight and it’s currently yielding an attractive 4%.

So with that, that’s the end of our prepared comment and now, Matt will open it up for questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

Thanks, Joe. I’ll start out with the obvious one. It’s been very impressive and very active of late. If I tell you, you would do me the greatest honor if you would either confirm or deny, whether there is a potential transaction with Time Warner in the works?

Steve Lacy

I appreciate, Matt, you opening up the Q&A with that question. And of course as a matter of corporate policy, we never comment on any sort of rumors of that nature, but I appreciate getting that on the table. So we don't have to spend a lot of time talking about it.

Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

Okay. Understood. I respect that. Let’s move on to a completely different topic then. Are there any parts of your business that you think could benefit by some further scale? Okay. So you don’t want to answer that one either.

Steve Lacy

No. I'd really be happy to answer that one, because we have been very public about that for a long period of time. We worked really hard, especially over the last 18 months or so to bring some incremental television properties into the business. But the prices have been heady and we’ve just sort of fallen as the number two. Probably, we got the closest on McGraw-Hill which is about a year ago or so at this time.

In our agency business, in MXM, we have a very interesting 20% investment in an international agency called Iris Communications based in London, and we've got an option on the remainder of that business that runs through the end of calendar ‘13. So we are trying to determine if we can prove on that promise to take some of our clients to the international platform and bring some of theirs here to the U.S. And of course we’ve had a well stated list of magazine-based brands that we've been interested in for quite sometime.

We were fortunate over the last year to be able to pry, both Allrecipes and Rachael Ray out of the Reader's Digest before their most recent unfortunate bankruptcy filing and then to pick up both EatingWell and FamilyFun. And we continue to look across all these platforms because we think we are pretty efficient operator and we can bring these businesses into our portfolio. And not only take cost out, but also help monetize them closer to their maximum capabilities and that strategy continues.

Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

Okay. I don't want to seem very short-sighted, because it wasn't -- it's not more than a year ago when you took your dividend up significantly. But you most recently raised it by 6.5%, which was below your long-term average that you just cited. Can you walk through some of the thinking behind the selection of that? Is it an appropriate increase?

Joe Ceryanec

We’ve just increased it 50% the year before that, so pretty good average for the two years. No, we look at it every year. We look at what our cash flow of the business has done. We looked at our payout ratio. We look at our cash flow ratio. We look at what M&A activities might be on the horizon that might need to utilize cash. So all of those factors go in, what we propose to the Board and the Board did approve our proposal of the 6.5%.

Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

Okay. Within MXM, Steve, you noted a really strong pipeline and a couple of wins already underneath the belt. And you talked about -- I forget the semantics but the potential for growth in calendar '13. Do you need to close on the rest of the pipeline to grow, or can you grow based on the wins you already have in hand?

Steve Lacy

We could grow based on what we already have in hand that I just think we've got a lot more upward potential until calendar ’12, where we really suffered some major program reductions. We didn’t lose anything but some major program reduction. That business had been clicking along and it’s kind of sort of a low teens topline growth rate for probably, the five or six years before that and that’s really, Matt, where we are striving to get back to that level of growth because we think it’s possible with the capabilities we have but also as you know, the real key distinction in that business is our ability not only to create a compelling direct marketing program or a fantastic website or social media opportunity but also to be able to create the content that makes those programs work.

And that’s really what distinguishes us from a traditional agency. And that we create compelling content in our core business and we just quote that over in to MXM. So we think we’ve got some more upside.

Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

Okay. On the licensing topic, there’s been one untapped area that I’ve always noticed that you’ve done a very good job leveraging Better Homes and Gardens brand. And then you have this scaled Parenting and Family group now. And it just strikes me that there must be more opportunities there. And at this point, you’ve to sign the right partner for that. Are you any closer?

Steve Lacy

That has been a major frustration because we’ve really are the real cornerstone parenthood media business. The trick, of course, is to go in with the line of clothing or line of accessories or car seats or whatever, you have to be willing as the retailer to take some thing else that’s nationally branded out.

And since I personally was involved in this before it became Wal-Mart’s idea to license Better Homes and Gardens, we had pitched that program for 10 years. So it takes a while but once you are in, if you’re successful, it’s pretty sticky high margin revenue. So we haven’t given up on the Parents brand. We think it makes sense as you do.

Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

Okay. Congrats on this morning's announcement around the Hallmark Channel. The Better Show was already well distributed. You probably have the most reason number of homes?

Steve Lacy

About 160 markets across the country.

Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

Right. How would you scale the Hallmark opportunity relative to what you’ve already accomplished?

Steve Lacy

It basically more than doubles that footprint but more importantly for us as we think about going to the marketplace and selling our really major cross platform programs. It allows us to bring nationally -- fully nationally distributed program to our advertisers, which we think will create some advertising opportunities for both parties. So we think it’s going to be good for Hallmark from a ratings perspective. But we think it will also be good for the show.

Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

Okay. Let’s cover the trends, let’s do National and then we’d Local?

Steve Lacy


Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

I thank you for the detail on the most recent conference call about the sequential performance. You had said March ad pages were down 4% and then April looked better than March. Have you closed May? Would you care to talk about whether April ended up coming in better than March and perhaps how you’re doing in May?

Steve Lacy

We haven’t -- we're not quite closed on May but I think it’s going to look more like the average of the first two months.

Joe Ceryanec

I think, Matt, to pile on, when we announced our guidance for our third quarter, we said total National Media ad revenue would be up in the mid-single digits. And on a same-store -- I think we said on a consistent basis, comparable basis, we’d be down in the low single digits. And I think April even with -- where April came in, we’re still comfortable with what we said at the end of the second quarter.

Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

I think your TV guidance was low to -- it was flat to up slightly. Any deviations relative to that in categories. Does one stick out?

Steve Lacy

Yeah. Automotive continues to be okay. I was a little nervous today when I read that it's -- the growth of sales had slowed a little bit because it can be sensitive to that but so far so good.

Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

Okay. So we’ve covered a lot of those topics here. Let me just ask you in general, let’s talk about tablet opportunity. For the industry, tablet penetration right now is still low. There’s some definitional issues and you've crunched the ABCs or the AAM numbers, as they're now calling themselves. You're at 1%. If you fully included the expanded definition, you're around 2%.

Steve Lacy


Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

So again, it's a small but probably growing portion of the readership base. Is that a good thing or a bad thing overall for Meredith?

Steve Lacy

No. We think that it is a very, very good thing especially as you think about our largest potential audience of consumers coming into our wheelhouse, which is really the Gen Y consumer. And we think that it's really important to have a compelling digital or maybe more specifically tablet opportunity. But it really plays interestingly enough, very closely to the way she behaves with her smart phone as well.

And we see this especially with Allrecipes. When we bought Allrecipes which I guess, it’s almost exactly a year ago now. That site, unfortunately hadn’t got much investment. And if you used your smart phone which you got was what I think of it the traditional desktop site, which was obviously very poor consumer experience.

We mobilized it if you will. And now about a third of their traffic is coming from the consumer who is actually standing at retail with her mobile phone in her hand. And we think the ability to ad couponing and bring back together for our advertisers is really powerful.

So we've got a lot of these digital opportunities that play. There is certainly on the back again on the tablet a wonderful cost offset. If that were to grow significantly because today on paper printing and postage, we spend about $300 million. If we could reach a 10% penetration in tablet, it would be fantastic. But we are allowing the consumer to access that platform as she sees fit rather than forcing it on her.

Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

Sounds good. We're going to do a Q&A before the time runs out.

Unidentified Analyst

Just a quick question. Given that digital is longer-term growth opportunity, we heard from Jeff Bewkes, for example, today, talking about how they're altering some of their content for that second screen opportunity. I'm curious, longer term, for you all, given that you've got such great franchises. And you're doing a great job on the print side, currently. Do you alter the content somewhat to stay relevant in the digital realm. And if so, what types of things are you doing?

Joe Ceryanec

Well, we do that and we've never provided other then in the tablet and I’ll come back to that. The same content in print that we made available to her in digital because she really comes to those platforms for different reasons. We find print to be much more inspirational about giving her ideas. And we really find digital the traditional digital, if you will, the web properties to be a place she goes to execute against idea she's already come up with more efficiently.

What we love about the tablet and of course, it does all have to be resized because you know there's a lot of tablet. And one side doesn’t fit all, it really give us the first time ever to bring what you would think of as the traditional print and the digital together. So you can seamlessly move from one platform to the other plus we’ve added a lot of video content to that, which is really more how two kind of chips which historically have been in different places.

So we've done a lot of modification. And we’re trying to find out what is the most compelling way that she likes to consume that. And we’d love to move a huge amount of our audience to as I said earlier, a tablet platform where she could then seamlessly move to a website be that our website or one of our advertisers without moving to a different device. But it's kind of early days of making that happen. Yeah sir.

Unidentified Analyst

Thank you. The move to the tablet and mobile, how much are you spending on IT side for this. You’re doing mostly this in-house or out-house. How are you attacking this?

Steve Lacy

Well, we pay developers and designers to help us kind of figure out how to actually establish the look and the feel. But most of the actual work is done with our own people and then certainly all the content is populated with our own creative folks. So if the mix, the early days, it would be a little heavier towards what we pay people on the outside but once -- once the tablet version of one of these brands is up and running, we do it entirely with our own people. And I don't know Joe, if you have an idea of how many million we’re spending?

Joe Ceryanec

Yeah. It’s internally about $2 million to $3 million a year. We also, however, are part of a consortium called Next Issue Media. It’s really a joint venture between Meredith, Condé Nast, Hearst, Time Inc. and News Corp. We each own 20%. And that is the entity that is coming out with this All-you-can-eat platform or you can access titles across all of the four major magazine companies.

It’s called Next Issue Media. We’ve all committed a certain level of capital and we’re spending about $2 million to $3 million a year on Next Issue Media, so in total $5 million to $6 million. And that's been pretty consistent last two or three years.

Matt Chesler - Deutsche Bank

We are out of time. So I wanted to thank Joe and Steve for being here today. Thank you all for your questions.

Steve Lacy

Thank you, Matt. I appreciate very much.

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