APN News and Media will launch the first of its new regional digital subscription packages In Australia next week to be followed by digital registrations for the New Zealand Herald later in the year.
The Australian package will be launched on Tuesday, August 25, through The Chronicle in Toowoomba, Queensland. It will give readers access to masthead’s digital and mobile app offerings, as well as access to the streaming service Presto and The Washington Post.
The package also will include online access to Fox Sports, unlimited access to ARM titles, a digital pass to News Corp Australia’s The Courier-Mail and a rewards program.
It will be offered to readers at an introductory price of $3 per week, rising to $6 after the offer period.
The Chronicle site will be a metered model, allowing readers to view 10 stories a month before being asked to subscribe.
The company’s New Zealand division, NZME, will launch digital registrations for the Auckland-based New Zealand Herald within the next few months.
It is understood the move is the first stage of a new digital strategy.
Other initiatives include the commencement of a newspaper distribution partnership with News Corp Australia across the company’s northern NSW titles, with the possibility of extending it into Queensland.
Discussions also are under way to forge a newspaper distribution partnership between NZME and Fairfax Media on the North Island, with the potential to generate revenue benefits for NZME.
APN made the announcements at the company’s half-year results conference today.
The company recorded a 5 per cent increase in revenue to $427.6 million from continuing operations, compared to the corresponding period last year.
However the company saw a 67 per cent fall in net profit attributed to exceptional items which included $2.6 million in asset write downs and business closures, $12.8 million in onerous contract costs, $1.4 million in redundancies and associated costs, and $3.3 million in finance costs.
“APN’s 2015 first half results reflect a soft advertising market in the second quarter and a company in an important transition phase,” APN chief executive Ciaran Davis said.
“APN continues to generate strong cash flows and we have good balance sheet flexibility to invest in further growth opportunities,” he said.
Australian Regional Media saw strong audience growth and uptake of its digital offerings despite a 22 per cent fall in second quarter earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation due to the challenging advertising market and weak economy.
ARM reported the highest audience reach on record, with 1.8 million people reached per month and its weekly digital-only audience overtaking its print audience in a 51 per cent to 49 per cent share.
“The business has again seen record audience growth, driven by digital and mobile consumption and has a number of initiatives in place to monetise this growth, including the launch of digital subscription and new mobile and tablet apps,” Mr Davis said.
The Australian Radio Network continues to host several of the most popular radio programs. ARN’s EBITDA has risen 26 per cent to $36.6 million following the acquisition of 96FM.
In its outdoor division, the company will expand Adshel’s digitised screen and street furniture network.
The Sydney Trains network has expanded to 200 digital screens. October 1 will see the launch of 270 roadside screens across Australia and the company intends to expand its New Zealand network to Wellington and Christchurch.
APN’s gross debt has grown from $496.8 million in December to $533.2 million in June 2015. The company has extended its debt facilities to mature in 2019 and is worth $655 million.
APN will implement a cost-saving program by the end of the year set to deliver $25 million savings in the next 12 to 18 months.