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Jan 10, 2020

Corus CEO calls on feds to give media industry more room to invest

Brian Madden discusses Corus

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TORONTO -- Corus Entertainment Inc. is calling on the newly elected federal government to give the domestic media industry more freedom to invest where it wants in order to thrive in a world that's increasingly dominated by foreign multinationals.

Chief executive Doug Murphy said Friday after Corus released its latest quarterly report, that there's an opportunity to create a more robust ecosystem in Canada to transform how television is sold to consumers and advertisers.

"Canadian media companies must be able to move faster, and to invest where we want to invest. Canadian broadcasting policies still don't allow us that flexibility," Murphy said in prepared statements on a conference call.

He noted that a government-appointed advisory panel is scheduled to release recommendations this month as part of a years-long effort by the Trudeau Liberals to chart a new path for the long term.

Whatever the panel recommends, however, it will be up to the minority government to decide how to balance conflicting priorities set out by various groups during more than a year of consultations.

"Now is the time for Ottawa to come to the table," Murphy told analysts on a conference call.

"It is important that we work together — government and industry — to build a new policy framework that works for all of us."

Murphy said Corus has demonstrated it's on the right track and making progress towards creating a more diverse source of revenue, including content creation and television advertising sales.

"In this quarter coming, the next quarter and the quarter behind that, we will continue to advocate for policies, which enable a competitive Canadian media and content industry, but one that is driven by market forces," Murphy said.

He said the five major agencies that direct 95 per cent of the money spent on national advertising in Canada would like to see a common definition of television audience segments, to counter the hyper-targeted advertising of digital media.

"We're working together on ad tech. We're working together on a variety of initiatives," Murphy said.

But he said "industry can only do so much" and needs Ottawa to "get going" and "make change that is authoritative and impact and immediate."

Corus net income for the three months ended Nov. 30 was $78.1 million, or 37 cents per share, up from $60.4 million or 28 cents per share last year.

Adjusted net income was $80 million, or 38 cents per share, up from $70.1 million, or 33 cents per share a year earlier.

Revenue was $467.88 million, up by about $407,000 from last year.

Analysts had estimated 39 cents per share of adjusted income for Corus, with $462.5 million of revenue, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

RBC Dominion Securities analyst Drew McReynolds said in a research note to clients that revenue from the Corus Television advertising was up 0.9 per cent, beating his estimate of a 1.2 per cent decline.

That was offset by a decline in revenue from specialty channel subscriptions and lower revenue from the Corus radio division, McReynolds wrote.

The Toronto-based company owns the Global television network, specialty TV channels such as HGTV Canada, local radio stations and content production studios.