With No Buyer For Time, Battista Buys Time For Time Strategy

It looks like Rich Battista will get his chance to dilate Time,Inc.(TIME) after all. After months of speculation and talks, beginning just after he began as CEO last fall, Time announced on Friday that its Board had determined not to sell the company at this time and to instead continue pursuing Battista’s strategic plan.  What is the key to the plan? Says Rich Battista “The Company is better positioned to capitalize on this potential with its recent shift from a siloed, legacy publishing structure, to an integrated, enterprise platform structure.” Readers of Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue are certain to appreciate the integrated, enterprise platform structure.  The announcement discussed more about the strategy which seems to essentially be “make more money online before people entirely stop buying magazines.”

Time Inc.’s strategic plan includes:

  • Continued growth in digital audiences and digital revenues led by branded/native content solutions and video
  • Expanding and diversifying revenues and content through brand extensions across all areas, including TV, OTT, events, licensing, new products and strategic partnerships
  • Further enhancing data, targeting and self-service programmatic capabilities
  • Selective portfolio rationalization
  • Continued aggressive reengineering of the cost structure of the Company

Rich Battista stated, “Time Inc. is a reinvigorated company uniquely positioned to succeed in the multi-platform media marketplace with an exceptional set of brands and assets, tremendous scale and significant untapped potential. The Company is better positioned to capitalize on this potential with its recent shift from a siloed, legacy publishing structure, to an integrated, enterprise platform structure. We are excited to execute on our plan as we have become a leader in digital and remain #1 in print ad revenue share. In addition, our transformation has brought a number of potential partners interested in working with us to unlock and accelerate value across our portfolio of brands.”

Time Inc. is a top player in digital audience with 133 million comScore uniques, the majority of which are on mobile devices, and which includes 3 out of 4 millennials. We have over 250 million social followers, and approximately 30 million paid subscriptions. Native advertising revenues doubled in 2016 and are continuing to grow at that pace and video revenues also continue to see strong growth. Our profitable digital ad revenues are expected to grow to more than $600 million in 2017, and the Company sees a path to $1 billion over the course of its plan.

Battista added, “Advertisers are looking for fewer, bigger partners. Our unique combination of iconic brands and premium, safe content environments, large audiences across platforms, and data and people-based targeting capabilities enables us to offer them differentiated solutions at scale. Today we have affirmed that we remain on track with our financial outlook for the year. I look forward to continuing to work with the Board and our extraordinarily talented team to deliver value to Time Inc.’s shareholders, consumers, and advertising partners.

Time’s decision to go it alone follows its inability to fetch a sufficient offer and potential acquirers difficulty in raising financing for the transaction. In particular, Meredith Corp(MDP) was thought to be the high bidder and had hoped to spin off its broadcasting arm after such a deal, following in the footsteps of Tribune Media(TRCO)/Tronc(TRNC) and others.

So Time’s venerable brands, spun off and cast off by Time Warner(TWX) now stand on their own once again, with the power, for the moment, to define their own destiny.

Disclosure: The author holds no stake in any stock mentioned