Earnings for the quarter ended September 30, 2020, jumped 45% at HarperCollins over the comparable period last year, with sales rising 13%. Parent company News Corp said sales hit $458 million in the quarter and EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) rose to $71 million from $49 million last year. Revenues benefitted from a $4 million positive impact from foreign currency fluctuations.
A combination of factors led to the gains, including the reopening of bookstores, a 20% increase in digital revenue, and a 38% jump in direct-to-consumer revenue over last year’s quarter, News Corp CEO Robert Thomson said. Breaking out HC’s digital performance, Thomson said e-book sales rose 18% in the quarter—continuing the momentum from the prior period—while downloadable audiobook sales increased 26%. Digital sales represented 23% of HC’s consumer revenues, coming to roughly $100 million.
HC’s general books group drove the sales gain, led by titles such as The Order by Daniel Silva, The Guest List by Lucy Foley, and How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps by Ben Shapiro. Sales of children’s books were also up, driven by higher backlist sales across various titles, News Corp said. Despite those backlist gains, Susan Panuccio, News Corp CFO, said that because of the strong performance of new books, backlist sales represented 61% of revenue in the most recent period, down from 64% a year ago. She also said the huge gain in profits was more a function of the sales mix than any cost cutting.
In brief remarks on the current quarter, Panuccio said HC continues to see higher online sales. Upcoming titles include The Greatest Secret by Rhonda Byrne and Ree Drummond’s Frontier Follies.