TORONTO (CP) _ As the CSI franchise continues to dominate television ratings, Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc. (TSX:AAC.B) is reaping the rewards, posting a 45 per cent year-over-year profit increase in the summer quarter.
The specialty broadcaster said Friday that the strong performance of CSI, which it co-produces and distributes, proved that interest in the murder-mystery programs remains strong around the world. Overall CSI revenue totalled $140.2 million, up from $50.3 million in the year-ago quarter despite a $12.5-million negative impact from foreign exchange rate changes.
The strength of CSI remains apparent in Canadian ratings where all three CSI series _ which include Miami and New York based spinoffs _ rank as the top three most-watched shows on a regular basis, according to its broadcaster, Bell Globemedia’s CTV. Ratings in the United States are equally strong, with all three programs frequently ranking in the Top 10.
Alliance said net earnings jumped to $17.7 million from $12.2 million despite a $30-million goodwill impairment charge on the "other" segment of the company’s library of films and TV programs. Revenue was $323.5 million, up from $247.1 million a year ago.
New international second-run sales of CSI contributed $91.3 million to revenue and $40.3 million to the bottom line. Earnings per share came to 42 cents, up from 28 cents in the same period a year earlier. In Friday afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, Alliance rose 17 cents to $38.67, with a 52-week high of $39.60 and a low of $31.20.
Alliance CEO Phyllis Yaffe also noted that streaming content, which debuted on the company’s specialty channel websites this summer, proved to be a strong interest for viewers.
"Since July… we have served up 2.8 million video streams. Our sites are serving, on average, nearly one million video streams per month," she said.
Canadian viewers thirsty for digital content had access to previously aired episodes of renovation series "Holmes on Homes" as well as "webisodes" of the American firefighter drama "Rescue Me."
Streaming online content has become a hot item for American networks and cable channels, which often catalogue recent episodes of hit series for access on their websites. Due to copyright restrictions, most American networks lock out their website’s video programming to Canadian viewers. That means past CSI episodes can be streamed by Americans through the CBS website, though Canadian network CTV hasn’t made a similar move.
Yaffe didn’t directly address whether CSI would soon be accessible to Canadians through CTV’s streaming content. The Alliance websites deal only with programming that is produced and airs on in-house cable channels.
"One of our priorities over the next year is to continue to focus on enriching the content and applications on our websites," she said.
"Our advertisers, sponsors and content providers are very eager to move into these new markets and we intend to meet their growing needs."
Broadcasting revenue edged up four per cent to $66.7 million, while motion picture distribution revenue declined eight per cent to $107 million.
Alliance Atlantis bought back 900,000 Class B shares during the quarter at a cost of $29.6 million, and chief financial officer David Lazzarato said the share repurchase program will continue next year.