Cable networks enjoyed a banner year in 2007, with industry revenue increasing 12.6% to $38 billion, according to SNL Kagan’s 2008 edition of “Economics of Basic Cable Networks.”
Cable ad revenue jumped 10.5% to $19 billion, while license fees (affiliate revenues) soared almost 15% to more than $20 billion.
Despite the recent economic downturn, SNL Kagan expects 2008 to be a strong year for license fees, which result from long-term contracts and provide cable networks with nearly half of their revenue.
Ad revenue will be up 10.4% for all of 2008, despite an expected weakening in the second half of the year, Kagan projects. That growth will be cut to 4.7% in 2009, recovering to 11.1% in 2010 on the back of a strengthening economy, it predicted.
“This year’s weak economy has resulted in extremely volatile ad markets with major advertisers scrambling to allocate budgets where they will get the most bang for the buck,” said Derek Baine, senior analyst for SNL Kagan.
“Companies that publicly report ad sales for their cable nets showed positive second-quarter results spanning a wide range from +1% to +28%. However, we expect to start seeing more negative numbers in the second half of 2008.”
SNL Kagan’s ten-year projections for cable networks show slow but steady growth trends:
- Total industry multichannel subscribers are expected to grow 1.3% per year, roughly half the rate of the previous 10-year period (1998 and 2007).
- Total industry ad revenue is expected to increase at an annual rate of 8.1%, slower than the 11.6% posted over the previous decade.
- Total industry revenue is expected to grow 8.9% per year, with affiliate fees decelerating to a growth rate of 9.5% per year over the next 10 years vs. the 16.1% annual growth rate over the previous decade.
- Total industry cash flow is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.8% per year, reaching almost $40 billion by 2017.
- By 2012, the plurality of cable networks (56 of 163, or 34%) will have cash flow margins (cash flow from operating activities, divided by net sales) of 40-50%:
- The average industry cash flow margin is expected to rise from 36.4% in 2008 to 42.5% by 2017.
About the study: SNL Kagan’s forecasts are generated from a close tracking of company-reported financials and regulatory sources, and from an annual survey of top industry executives, who provide a unique viewpoint on their own network’s economics.