Earnings Preview for Astral Media and Corus Entertainment

Includes: AAIAF, CJREF
by: FP Trading Desk

Both Astral Media Inc. (OTC:AAIAF) and Corus Entertainment Inc. (CJR) report their first quarter results on Wednesday. We’ve been writing this story at FP Trading Desk for some time, but these are two companies whose revenue from cable advertising and pay television subscriptions mean analysts see them as somewhat better positioned than their media rivals to ride out the economic downturn.

What to watch for Wednesday morning.

The HBO uptick: Both companies went big in promoting the launch of HBO Canada. Now investors begin to get a clearer sense of whether offering the American network is helping to lure more pay television subscribers, or at the very least, prevent current subscribers from canceling as the economy flounders. This revenue stream is absolutely key for both companies because it does not fluctuate the way advertising revenue does.

Update on Astral’s Virgin radio rebranding: The company went live with Virgin 999 in Toronto last August, and just recently rebranded stations in Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal. Scotia Capital analyst Paul Steep notes that Astral saw weaker radio ratings in several key markets over September and October last year, and that the Virgin brand could spark renewed interest.

Radio advertising market in general: Canadian Broadcast Sales said recently that that national advertising sales in Canadian radio fell about 1% over September to November. According to Desjardins Securities analyst Eric Bernofsky, national sales account for only about a quarter of the total market, but act as a proxy for local advertising. While radio shouldn’t feel the advertising pinch as much as newspapers and network television, it will likely dip in Q1, and it represents a significant revenue stream for both Astral and Corus.