HarperCollins' revenue rose 6% in the quarter ended March 31, over the comparable period last year. Earning, parent company News Corp reported, jumped 16%. Sales in the quarter rose to $398 million, while EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) rose to $43 million.
In a conference call, News CFO Susan Panuccio said the sales gains were led by the general and Christian publishing divisions. Backlist sales did particularly well, and accounted for 58% of revenue in the quarter, compared to 52% a year ago. Backlist sales, Panuccio noted, were led by The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. The strong performance of all of HC's backlist helped to boost margins in the quarter.
Frontlist bestsellers included The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn and The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi by Kathie Lee Gifford. HC sales also benefited from the $10 million positive impact from foreign currency fluctuations.
Another good period for downloadable audiobook led to a 5% increase in digital sales at HC compared to the prior year. The company said that downloadable audio accounted for about 25% of all digital revenue in the recent period. Digital sales represented 22% of consumer revenue for the quarter, the same percentage the format accounted for in last year’s quarter.
During the conference call, News CEO Robert Thomas again called for some sort of oversight of companies "which have horizontal dominance and use that leverage to dominate a vertical, such as Amazon with audiobooks."
In a brief look ahead, Panuccio said the licensing deal HC struck with Amazon to create an original television series based on the Lord of The Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien should bring about $20 million to the publisher this quarter.
The most recent quarter is the third period for HC and News Corp, whose fiscal year ends June 30. For the first nine months of fiscal 2018, earnings were up 8% over fiscal 2017, hitting $173 million. Sales were ahead 3%, to $1.27 billion.