Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, parent of ad-supported streaming services like Crackle, reported disappointing second-quarter results but showed sharp gains in advertising and licensing revenue.
Total revenue came in at $22.1 million, up 64% from $13.5 million in the year-ago quarter but down from $23.2 million in the prior quarter and short of analysts’ consensus forecast. Analysts had expected revenue of $24.3 million. Losses reached 79 cents a share, not as wide as the 83 cents of a year ago but worse than the Street’s 55-cent outlook.
In a conference call with analysts, CEO Bill Rouhana blamed a delay in deliveries of streaming series Hunters and Slasher, in which the company has an interest. Despite the hit to the top line, the company is “ahead of track” for the full year, he said. “Those two events just moved from one month to the next,” he said. “The production business and the licensing business can be lumpy.” Hunters, which stars Al Pacino, streams on Amazon Prime Video. It was one of the marquee properties that came under Chicken Soup’s control after a major deal to acquire assets from Sonar Entertainment.
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More encouraging was the upswing in streaming and advertising. Viewing on Crackle and Popcornflix, a sibling AVOD service, showed increases in the high teens in the month of June over June 2020, the company said, despite a major streaming boost a year ago from Covid-19 and widespread lockdowns.
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Rouhana was asked about M&A given the race for scale in the streaming business, in which media players many times larger than Chicken Soup have conceded they’re not big enough. After going public in 2017, the company has amassed a market value of just shy of $500 million.
Without offering any specifics, the CEO said his answer for the near term is different than the one for the long term. The company itself has pulled off savvy M&A deals, among them taking over Crackle from Sony in a virtually cash-free transaction and also buying Screen Media for a reported song. Yet it in turn has received inbound interest lately, no surprise given the urgency of the streaming chase and the favorable dealmaking climate.
“In the short term, we’re small enough that we can bigger enough that it makes a difference in terms of creating shareholder value,” Rouhana said. “We can materially grow our business in a sensible way in the near term and be a much more valuable company. In the long term, one of the ways that value is likely to be recognized is because we become combined with somebody bigger. …. But I’m still in the mode of building and growing materially so that we can continue to increase the value of our company.”
He added that he is “certain” that the company will eventually decide to merge or be acquired, but that day has not yet arrived.