TEGNA Inc. Reports Record 2020 Fourth Quarter and Full-Year Results, Provides First Quarter and Full-Year 2021 Outlook

Results reflect ongoing execution of long-term strategy and strength of operations, with record performance including unprecedented political advertising revenues, continued strength of high-margin and recurring subscription revenues, record GAAP net income of $483 million and more than $1 billion in Adjusted EBITDA

Company exceeds full-year 2020 guidance provided prior to the COVID-19 pandemic for all key financial metrics

2021 first quarter and full-year guidance driven by significant subscription revenue growth and improving advertising and marketing services (“AMS”) revenues; AMS expected to finish positive in the first quarter after continuous sequential quarterly improvements since the height of the pandemic in the second quarter of 2020

Strengthened diversity, equity and inclusion commitment and set five-year goals to increase Black, Indigenous and People of Color representation in content teams, news leadership and management roles; enhanced ESG reporting to reflect Company’s long-standing efforts to make positive contributions to local communities

TYSONS, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–TEGNA Inc. (NYSE: TGNA) today announced financial results for the fourth quarter and full- year ended December 31, 2020.1


  • Total company revenue was $938 million, up 35 percent year-over-year, driven by record political advertising and continued growth in subscription revenue. Revenue was up 46 percent from the fourth quarter of 2018 driven by the same factors, as well as the impact of acquisitions.
  • Excluding political advertising, fourth quarter revenue was slightly up year-over-year.
  • TEGNA generated record political advertising revenue of $264 million in the fourth quarter, including $50 million of revenue generated from the Georgia Senate run-off elections. Fourth quarter political revenue was up 89 percent from the fourth quarter of 2018.
  • Subscription revenue of $314 million was up nine percent year-over-year due to rate increases. The increase would have been 17 percent but for a temporary suspension of service with AT&T / DirecTV. TEGNA’s comprehensive, multi-year affiliation agreements, combined with subscription revenue renewals, continue to provide clear visibility into subscription revenue growth.
  • TEGNA expects net subscription profits to grow in the mid-to-high twenties percent in 2021.
  • Advertising and marketing services (“AMS”) revenues of $352 million were down six percent year-over-year despite inventory displacement due to political advertising. AMS revenues continue to reflect quarterly sequential improvement since the height of the pandemic in the second quarter of 2020.
  • Net income was $244 million, almost triple the amount in the fourth quarter of 2019, and non-GAAP net income was $256 million.
  • Total company Adjusted EBITDA was a record $429 million. This represents an increase of 87 percent in Adjusted EBITDA compared with fourth quarter of 2019, and an increase of 57 percent compared with the fourth quarter of 2018.
  • GAAP earnings per diluted share were $1.11 and non-GAAP earnings per diluted share were $1.16.
  • Record free cash flow was $350 million or 37 percent of fourth quarter revenue.
  • The Company ended the quarter with total debt of $3.6 billion and net leverage of 3.95x, better than the year-end 2020 guidance of 4.1x provided when TEGNA completed its 2019 acquisitions, and despite the impacts of the pandemic.
  • In December, the TEGNA Board of Directors authorized the renewal of its share repurchase program which allows the Company to repurchase up to $300 million of its issued and outstanding common stock over the next three years.


  • Total company revenue was $2.9 billion, up 28 percent year-over-year and up 33 percent relative to the full-year 2018, driven by the impact of acquisitions, record political advertising, and continued growth in subscription revenue.
  • TEGNA generated record political advertising revenue of $446 million in the year, up 91 percent relative to the full-year 2018.
  • Subscription revenue of $1.3 billion was up 28 percent year-over-year due to rate increases and acquisitions, exceeding pre-COVID 2020 guidance2 and in line with the guidance of up high-twenties percentage-wise provided on November 9, 2020. Without the temporary suspension of service for AT&T / DirecTV, subscription growth would have been 30 percent year-over-year.
  • AMS revenues of $1.2 billion were down only four percent year-over-year, despite the impact of COVID-19 and political displacement.
  • Net income was $483 million, up 69 percent year-over-year, and non-GAAP net income was $507 million.
  • Total company Adjusted EBITDA was a record $1.0 billion, up 45 percent year-over-year, and 31 percent above full-year 2018.
  • GAAP earnings per diluted share were $2.19 and non-GAAP earnings per diluted share were $2.30.
  • Free cash flow was a record $741 million or 25 percent of full-year revenue. Free cash flow as a percentage of 2019/2020 revenue was 21.3 percent, exceeding our pre-COVID 2020 guidance2.






1 Throughout this earnings release, “acquisitions” includes (1) broadcast stations WTOL in Toledo, OH and KWES in Midland Odessa, TX, (2) multicast networks Justice Network and Quest, (3) the Dispatch Acquisitions, and (4) the Nexstar/Tribune Acquisitions. The Toledo and Midland Odessa stations do not impact 2020 to 2019 full-year comparisons as they closed in early January 2019, but they do impact 2020 to 2018 full-year comparisons.

2 Reflects full-year 2020 guidance provided in January 9, 2020 and February 11, 2020 press releases.


“As we previewed in our January 6th press release announcing preliminary fourth quarter and full-year 2020 results, TEGNA had an exceptional year of growth and innovation,” said Dave Lougee, president and chief executive officer. “The resiliency of our business model and continued execution of our five-pillar strategy positioned us for success regardless of the broader economic backdrop. I am particularly proud of the innovative spirit and perseverance of our employees throughout 2020. Their efforts to serve the greater good of our communities have never been more impactful or inspirational. Whether through exceptional local journalism, helping businesses navigate the pandemic or supporting our neighbors through fundraising and giving, our people were there for our communities when they needed us most. And during a time when mistrust is at an all-time high, our journalists are focused on combating disinformation and misinformation, and building and deepening the trust our audiences place in us through our VERIFY fact-checking reporting initiative and award-winning news and digital reporting.

“Due to the very nature of our purpose as a company to serve local communities, social responsibility is woven into the fabric of our Company and culture. In 2020, we took a number of steps to further strengthen our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (“DE&I”), appointing a chief diversity officer, identifying specific areas of oversight for our Board as it relates to DE&I and launching a diversity and inclusion employee working group. We recently took further steps by setting five-year goals to ensure our newsrooms, news leaders and management fully reflect the communities we serve. To better reflect our long-standing practices, we have also increased our ESG reporting and transparency, including the adoption of SASB disclosure standards for our industry as part of our 2020 Social Responsibility Highlights report. We look forward to continuing to update you on the work we are doing in these important areas, which remain a top priority of our Board and management.

“Looking to 2021, the full-year 2021 guidance we provided in early January and the incremental first quarter 2021 guidance we are providing today reflect our expectation for continued strength of our operations, visibility into our future cash flows, and continued commitment to prudent expense management. Together with the renewal of our largest network affiliation agreement in January, our high-margin, recurring subscription revenues reflecting leading Big Four rates will continue to be a key growth driver in 2021 and beyond. We successfully repriced approximately 35 percent of our subscribers last year and will reprice approximately 30 percent toward the end of this year. As a result, we still expect our net subscription profits to increase mid-to-high twenties percent in 2021.

“We will continue to execute and innovate to drive advertising and marketing services revenues, and we expect to see continued improvement in underlying advertising trends following the impact of the global pandemic. Premion, our over-the-top advertising business, is poised to continue to benefit from increased viewing on streaming services into 2021 and beyond, helping us expand our revenue base and giving us access to new markets.

“The strong financial position and balance sheet we have built through our thoughtful financing actions and prudent expense management provides us with significant optionality in the ways in which we can allocate capital. We recently reintroduced a three-year, $300 million share repurchase authorization as an additional opportunistic capital allocation tool. As we look to the year ahead, we are confident in our ability to continue to create and return value to our shareholders.”


Total company revenues increased 35 percent in the quarter year-over-year, driven by record political advertising and continued growth in subscription revenue.

Subscription revenue grew nine percent year-over-year due to rate increases. The increase would have been 17 percent but for a temporary suspension of service with AT&T / DirecTV.

Despite the impact of COVID-19 and political displacement, AMS revenues declined only six percent in the quarter compared to last year. AMS revenues have shown quarterly sequential improvement since the height of the pandemic in the second quarter of 2020.

GAAP operating expenses were $544 million, up five percent year-over-year, and non-GAAP operating expenses were $543 million, up nine percent. Expenses less programming costs increased three percent on a non-GAAP basis. The expense increase was predominantly driven by continued investments in growth initiatives such as Premion.

GAAP and non-GAAP operating income both totaled $394 million, up 123 percent and 102 percent, respectively. Adjusted EBITDA (a non-GAAP measure detailed in Table 3) totaled $429 million, and Adjusted EBITDA margin equaled 45.7 percent.

The fourth quarter included a few special items, the full details of which can be found in Table 2. The net effect of these items was to increase GAAP net income by $12 million and GAAP diluted net income per share by $0.05.

Interest expense decreased to $50 million compared to $60 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, due to the combination of lower average debt and interest rate. Total cash at the end of the quarter was $41 million. The GAAP tax rate for the fourth quarter of 2020 is 4.7 percentage points lower than the comparable rate in 2019 primarily due to the 2019 rate being unfavorably impacted by a $6.6 million valuation allowance recorded on a minority investment.


Total company revenues for the full-year totaled $2.9 billion, an increase of 28 percent from 2019 due to the impact of acquisitions, record political advertising, and continued growth in subscription revenue. The 28 percent increase in subscription revenue exceeded pre-COVID 2020 guidance and was in line with the guidance provided on November 9, 2020. Operating expenses for 2020 were $2.1 billion, an increase of 19 percent compared to 2019. On a non-GAAP basis, operating expenses increased 20 percent primarily due to higher programming fees, a full year of acquisitions and continued investments in growth initiatives such as Premion. Excluding programming and Premion costs tied to top line revenue growth, all other non-GAAP operating expenses were up nine percent above last year driven by acquisitions. On a non-GAAP basis, corporate expenses totaled $46 million. GAAP operating income in 2020 totaled $871 million and $890 million on a non-GAAP basis. Adjusted EBITDA was $1.0 billion in 2020 compared to $708 million in 2019. Adjusted EBITDA excluding corporate expenses was $1.1 billion, resulting in a margin of 36.4 percent.


In the first quarter of 2021, TEGNA results will continue to be supported by the growth drivers of strong subscription revenues and year-over-year AMS revenue growth. For the first quarter, the company expects:

First Quarter 2021 Key Guidance Metrics








Reflects expectations relative to first quarter 2020 results








Total Company GAAP Revenue



+ Mid-Single Digits percent






Total Non-GAAP Operating Expenses



+ Mid-Single Digits percent






Non-GAAP Operating Expenses

(excluding programming)



+ Low-Single Digits percent

TEGNA is reaffirming all 2021 guidance metrics announced on January 6, 2021:

Full-Year 2021 Key Guidance Metrics








Reflects expectations relative to full-year 2020 results








Subscription Revenue Growth



+ Mid to High-Teens percent

Corporate Expenses




$44 – 48 million





$62 – 66 million





$60 – 65 million

Interest Expense




$187 – 192 million

Capital Expenditures (Non-recurring capital expenditures*)



$64 – 69 million (including $20 – 22 million non-recurring*)

Effective Tax Rate




24.0 – 25.0%

Net Leverage Ratio




Mid 3x

Free Cash Flow as a % of est. combined 2020/21 Revenue


20.5 – 21.5%






* Non-recurring capital expenditure amount is supplemental to the previously reported full-year 2021 guidance.


  • Comprehensive Agreements Provide Visibility Into Growth of Recurring, High-Margin Subscription Revenues – In January, TEGNA reached a multi-year affiliation agreement with NBC, the Company’s largest network partner, covering 20 TEGNA markets nationwide including 10 of the top 25 markets for NBC. In 2020, the Company repriced approximately 35 percent of its paid subscribers, following 50 percent repriced in 2019, and will reprice approximately 30 percent toward the end of 2021.
  • TEGNA Digital Platforms Achieved Strong Performance Across Key Metrics Digital viewership continues to rise in consumption, finishing the year with nearly 70 million unduplicated average monthly visitors to our digital properties (source: Comscore), a 49 percent increase from 2019; total video plays of 1.7 billion (source: Google Analytics and YouTube Analytics), a 100 percent increase; total views of 4.9 billion, up 56 percent; and total minutes viewed of 7.8 billion, up 51 percent.
  • TEGNA Announces New Multicast Network – In February, TEGNA announced the spring launch of Twist, a new multicast entertainment network for women. Twist will feature home, food and reality programming for the growing audience of over-the-air viewers. Major unscripted TV hits will include Clean House, Top Chef Masters, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Dance Moms, Tabatha Takes Over, Tiny House Nation, Flipping Out, and more. At its launch, Twist will be distributed in 41 TEGNA markets, 11 Univision markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, and 31 HC2 Broadcasting local markets, reaching DMA’s covering 70 percent of U.S. television households, with additional distribution agreements expected by summer 2021. The new network enhances TEGNA’s leadership among non-fiction multicast networks, following the success of True Crime Network and Quest.
  • Premion Delivered Double-Digit Revenue Growth – Premion, TEGNA’s over-the-top advertising business, finished the year with revenues of more than $145 million, reflecting growth greater than 40 percent relative to 2019. The Company is expecting similar growth in 2021 as Premion continues to benefit from increased viewing on streaming services into 2021 and beyond, allowing TEGNA to expand our reach beyond its TV stations’ large audiences.
  • Acquired Leading Local Sports Podcast Network Locked On – TEGNA acquired Locked On, the leading and innovative podcast network for local sports that produces 160 podcasts and provides in-depth coverage of every NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL team plus major college sports teams. This acquisition will expand TEGNA’s presence in the quickly-growing podcast market and build on TEGNA’s overall sports footprint. (Press release) In February, Locked On entered into a sales and content partnership with Entercom, extending its current podcasts as well as new co-productions to Radio.com, the nation’s fastest growing digital audio platform.
  • Expanded VERIFY to Stop the Spread of Disinformation, Announced Appointment of Managing Editor – TEGNA announced that VERIFY will grow into a standalone national brand through the launch of dedicated digital products and expand its franchise to other non-TEGNA social media platforms in 2021. TEGNA appointed Jonathan Forsythe as managing editor of VERIFY to help lead these efforts, including overseeing daily content production, recruiting and managing VERIFY’s team of journalists, producers and audience-engagement specialists, and working with TEGNA stations to source story ideas and co-produce content. (Press release)
  • Honored with Two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards on Important Social Issues – WFAA’s (Dallas) VERIFY Road Trip: Climate Truth takes a climate change skeptic to meet with experts and to Alaska to witness first-hand the effects of global warming and KING (Seattle) chronicles the final months of a 75-year-old terminally ill cancer patient who chose to end his life under Washington’s Death with Dignity Act. (Press release)
  • Announced Distribution Partnership with Over-the-Top (“OTT”) Streaming Service News on Tubi – TEGNA recently announced a distribution agreement for live news content from 25 stations, including 15 stations in the top 25 markets, with Tubi as part of Tubi’s new local news initiative that is available on Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, the Roku® platform, Comcast Xfinity, Cox Contour, Xbox and Vizio.


  • Expanded and Enhanced Social Responsibility Reporting – TEGNA’s ESG reporting has been enhanced to align with the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board’s (“SASB”) guidelines that are relevant to the Company’s industry group. More information on TEGNA’s ESG reporting is included in the recently published 2020 Social Responsibility Highlights.
  • Continued Commitment to Supporting Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (“DE&I”) with Five-Year Goals– The Company has identified key objectives and accountability standards for its ongoing support of DE&I across TEGNA, including five-year goals, updated practices aligned with these goals, and annual key performance indicators to ensure progress and accountability are maintained.
  • Increased Focus on TEGNA’s Environmental Commitment – In addition to its stations’ commitment to science-based environmental reporting, including duPont-Columbia award-winning VERIFY Road Trip: Climate Truth, TEGNA regards environmental responsiveness and resource conservation as an integral aspect of business management. As part of the Company’s increased focus in this area, we will be conducting a Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures gap analysis in order to develop goals and set action plans for Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions. As part of this process, the Company will incorporate science-based emissions reduction targets into our goal setting that align with international consensus on limiting global temperature increases.
  • TEGNA Foundation, Stations and Employees Partnered with Community Non-profits to Address COVID-19 Relief, Social Justice and Other Pressing Needs in Our Local Communities – The TEGNA Foundation, the charitable foundation sponsored by the Company, in partnership with local stations announced it awarded 260 Community Grants in 48 markets to address COVID-19 relief, social justice initiatives and other pressing community needs. Participation in TEGNA’s employee Matching Gift program doubled in 2020, with 3,000 employee matching gifts approved by the TEGNA Foundation totaling more than $1.9 million to more than 1,000 non-profits. TEGNA stations’ fundraising and grantmaking efforts and employee giving demonstrate the Company’s commitment to empowering local communities to build a better and more equitable future.
  • TEGNA Named a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality for Fifth Consecutive Year – TEGNA received a perfect score on the 2021 Corporate Equality Index (“CEI”) and was designated a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality for the fifth consecutive year. (Press release)


Throughout the year, TEGNA continued to make prudent decisions to support the strength of the Company’s balance sheet and liquidity profile. In 2020, TEGNA completed two offerings of senior notes which reduced interest expense and extended maturities. The Company finished 2020 with net leverage of 3.95x and now has no debt coming due until 2024.

The $300 million, three-year share repurchase program renewal announced in January demonstrates the Board’s and management’s confidence in the business and continued focus on making prudent, disciplined decisions to drive near and long-term shareholder value. The Company has access to a number of tools to return value to shareholders, with a capital allocation philosophy intended to optimize returns through investments in organic and inorganic growth opportunities, paying down debt, issuing dividends, and repurchasing shares.


Certain statements in this communication may constitute “forward-looking statements” as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Any forward-looking statements contained herein are subject to a number of risks, trends and uncertainties that could cause actual results or company actions to differ materially from what is expressed or implied by these statements, including risks relating to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its effect on our revenues, particularly our nonpolitical advertising revenues. Potential regulatory actions, changes in consumer behaviors and impacts on and modifications to TEGNA’s operations and business relating thereto and TEGNA’s ability to execute on its standalone plan can also cause actual results to differ materially. Other economic, competitive, governmental, technological and other factors and risks that may affect TEGNA’s operations or financial results are discussed in our Annual Report on Form 10-K and Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q. Any forward-looking statements in this press release should be evaluated in light of these important risk factors. TEGNA is not responsible for updating the information contained in this press release beyond the published date, or for changes made to this press release by wire services, Internet service providers or other media.


TEGNA Inc. (NYSE: TGNA) will host a conference call to discuss its fourth quarter and full-year 2020 earnings results on Monday, March 1, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. (ET). TEGNA’s earnings announcement will be released to news outlets and wire services before the market opens on March 1.


For investor inquiries:

Doug Kuckelman

Head of Investor Relations



For media inquiries:

Anne Bentley

VP, Communications



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