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March 30, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:10am

Time Out Media blitzed by pandemic with revenue down 59% in second half of 2020

By Charlotte Tobitt

Revenue at Time Out Media was down 59% to £9m in the second half of 2020 as continued worldwide Covid-19 lockdowns and uncertainty stunted any recovery for its advertising-driven free magazine model.

Overall revenue at Time Out Group, which includes the food market business that was largely closed throughout the year, was down 69% to £12m.

Time Out suspended its print editions around the world in March last year, as coronavirus ground industries like travel and hospitality to a halt, and rebranded online to Time In for about six months.

It returned to print in London in September but was forced to stop again in December ahead of the UK going back into lockdown. The only other locations where the publisher managed to bring back the print magazine for a limited run were Spain and Portugal.

[Read more from Time Out CEO Julio Bruno: Coronavirus was ‘slap in the face’ after profitable second half of 2019]

In a statement accompanying the half-year financial results, chief executive Julio Bruno said the period began with the “first green shoots of recovery in advertising” but the UK’s second lockdown and continued restrictions around the world “again delayed media spend as advertisers assess the impact of vaccination rollouts and the return of consumer confidence”.

Bruno said: “Our print products will be re-introduced and will continue when supported by advertiser demand, requested as part of a bespoke product and when economically viable.”

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Bruno told Press Gazette in September the coronavirus pandemic had felt like a “slap in the face” for the company following a profitable second half to 2019, the period with which the latest results are being compared.

Print circulation and advertising were both down by 80% compared to the same July to December period in 2019. Print revenue went from £7.8m in the second half of 2019 to £1.5m in 2020.

Time Out digital

Time Out’s overall website traffic was down 6% to a monthly average of 23.1m in the second half of 2020.

However digital advertising revenue also suffered from the drop in demand particularly from the travel and hospitality industries, falling by 40% to £5.5m.

E-commerce revenue, which pivoted from selling tickets and offers to hotels, holidays and theatres to holding livestream theatre and virtual cultural events, fell by 48% to £1.1m.

Time Out Media’s adjusted earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation, amortisation, share based payments, and exceptional items (EBITDA) were down 349% from £675,000 in the second half of 2019 to a loss of £1.7m.

Although group gross profit decreased by 66% to £9.8m, the group benefited from an improved profit margin from 75% to 82% primarily due to Time Out Media’s revenue skewing more towards to higher margin digital operations such as brand partnerships.

Time Out Media’s live events revenue fell from £1.4m in the second half of 2019 to nothing in 2020. Its local marketing solutions were down 38% to £609,000 and revenue from franchised magazines was down 53% to £302,000.

The group also made further cost savings in the second half of 2020, including staff redundancies and continued use of government furlough schemes bringing staff costs down by 47%.

[Read more: Time Out among UK media govt furlough claimants in January 2021]

In addition plans are being put in place to relocate to smaller offices in London, New York and Sydney.

Bruno said: “2020 proved to be a very challenging year for all, and as our audience needed to adapt to the new realities so did we at Time Out Group. We reorientated our content to Time In, inspiring people at home; we developed new business opportunities, attracted new advertising clients, renegotiated rents in our Time Out Markets, and cut costs to reflect our trading environment.

“With worldwide vaccine programmes comes hope of our social lives returning to some normality, and whilst much has changed, some things haven’t: Time Out remains the soul of great cities worldwide and will be on hand once again to guide people through the best of city life when doors reopen.”

Bruno added that the board “believes that Time Out is set to emerge post pandemic with a greater digital focus, higher operating margins due to an optimised cost base, more markets open and a large global audience that has remained engaged with Time Out and its content”.

Time Out has not released full-year figures for 2020 because it is changing its accounting year, with the next release due to cover a “full-year” of 18 months and the group’s accounting year to run from 1 July henceforth.

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