Ancestry.Com Struggling to Maintain It's Profitability
Ancestry.com, the largest Internet genealogy source provider in the U.S. seems to have finally fallen on hard times. For years its subscriber database has grown steadily with its stock following similarly.
The company's problems surfaced last May when NBC decided to drop the popular TV series, "Who Do You Think You Are" (WDYTYA), a program in which Ancestry played a prominent role as celebrities sought their ancestors. During its three seasons on NBC the show is credited with causing Ancestry's subscriber database to increase over 40% to 1.87 million subscribers.
When NBC announced in May that it would not renew the show for a fourth season, Ancestry's stock plunged 12%. Tim Sullivan, President and CEO of Ancestry.com said, "We have a great partnership with the show's producers, Is or Isn't Entertainment and Shed Media, and we look forward to exploring other avenues of distribution." It appears another source has not been found as the winter viewing season draws near.
Classified a genealogical documentary, a total of 27 shows ran during the prime-time series, 7 the first season, 8 the second and 12 the third season. According to Wikepedia.org, most episodes of WDYTYA averaged nearly 7 million viewers during the first two seasons in spring 2010 and spring 2011. Episodes featuring Brooke Shields, Susan Sarandon, Steve Buscemi, and Ashley Judd earned a number 1 ranking for the time slot, while most other guests earned a number 2 rank, an indication of the show's popularity.
Nielson reported ratings down substantially during the 2012 season, with the majority of episodes ranked number 4 for the time slot. No doubt this drop in ranking is directly responsible for the decision by NBC to not renew for 2013. Numbers of viewers were also down substantially to slightly over 5 million per episode.
Meanwhile, Ancestry has been actively seeking a buyer. The New York Times reported the company was in talks with several private equity companies including TPG Capital, Providence Equity Partners and Permira. One analyst was quoted as saying there should be interest because "they are generating copious cash". Late in July the company announced second quarter revenue had risen 18 percent, to $119.1 million and per-share profit was up 44 cents. On July 27, Ancestry's stock finished at $33.07 on the Nasdaq exchange.
The stock closed at $30.24 on Wednesday, August 22 giving the company a total market value of $1.3 billion. On August 23, Reuters reported the bids submitted had fallen far short of expectations while another source reported Ancestry.com had rejected a bid of $35 per share for the company that originally went public in 2009.
Findmypast.com, a British company and world leader in online genealogy is currently launching its service in the U.S., and is eager to grab a piece Ancestry's market.
It remains to be seen how much impact continued development of the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) website, familysearch.org will have on Ancestry in the future. The LDS are digitizing and uploading images from their vast microfilm collection continually and could one day surpass Ancestry in quantity of online records. The LDS site is free to all, whereas Ancestry.com is accessible only by subscription, currently about $150 annually for U.S. records and double that for world record access.
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7 September 2012