Scripps Hungry for More Food

10/14/2003 4:16 AM Eastern

E.W. Scripps & Co. president and CEO Ken Lowe hinted that the media giant is looking at possibly taking full control of its Food Network cable channel from Tribune Co.

On a conference call discussing Scripps’ third-quarter results, Lowe said that while there are no "put" or "call" agreements that would force Tribune to give Scripps the remaining piece of the network, the time is coming near to figure out a way to do a deal.

"We’ve said numerous times publicly and privately that we’d very much like to acquire that, but I think [Tribune] would tell you that they’ve been pretty pleased with the job we’ve done in growing Food," Lowe said on the call.

"Now that it’s reaching a more mature stage -- once you get past 80 million households -- there might be an opportunity in the near future for us to do something with Tribune," he added.

Scripps owns about 70% of Food.

Overall, it was a strong quarter for Scripps, with net income up 13.6%, driven mainly by the cable networks.

Revenue at Home & Garden Television was up 22% to $70.1 million and up 23% at Food to $44.5 million.

Ad revenue at the networks segment -- including digital networks Do It Yourself and Fine Living -- rose 29% to $96.6 million, and affiliate fees from cable operators and satellite-service providers increased 12% in the quarter to $23.5 million.

On the call, Scripps said affiliate-fee revenue will rise about 30% in the fourth quarter.

Scripps’ stock was up more than 5% ($4.89 per share) on the news to $92.88 each in 4 p.m. trading Tuesday. Earlier in the day, the stock reached a new 52-week high of $93.65, up from its previous high of $90.65 each.

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