Television spot revenues were down 21.5% in Q3, but Belo made up some ground with non-spot revenues, including retransmission consent payments, so total revenues were down only 17.7% to $140.6 million.
Dunia Shive joined the chorus of broadcasting CEOs bragging of sequential improvement.
“The Company’s third quarter total revenue decline of 17.7 percent was an improvement over second quarter’s revenue decline of 23 percent, and is noteworthy given the significant political and Olympics revenue generated in the third quarter of 2008. Spot revenue, excluding political, declined 16 percent in the third quarter of 2009, an improvement from the 28 percent decline experienced in the second quarter of 2009. When factoring out the Olympics impact in August of 2008, monthly percentage declines in the Company’s core local and national spot revenue have improved sequentially from May through October. The Company’s combined station and corporate operating costs decreased 9 percent in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the third quarter of 2008 due primarily to cost-saving measures implemented over the past year. The Company generated $35 million in consolidated EBITDA in the third quarter of 2009, and reduced its debt by $27 million during the quarter,” Shive said in announcing the results. She was due to meet with Wall Street analysts on a telephone conference call later Tuesday.
Belo also announced that it is nearing the completion of an amendment to its bank credit facility. “Once completed, the contemplated amended credit facility will provide the Company greater capacity under the facility’s leverage and interest coverage covenants and greater flexibility for the Company going forward,” Shive said.
The refinancing will reduce the outstanding balance and commitments under Belo’s $550 million credit facility. Although Belo noted that it was in compliance with the terms of its credit facility at quarter end, the contemplated amendment is expected to allow for additional capacity under the credit facility’s leverage and interest coverage covenants and also extend the term of a portion of the commitments under the bank credit facility from June 2011 to December 2012. “When finalized, the extended credit facility is expected to provide for an increase in pricing based on the Company’s leverage ratio and other modifications to the existing agreement,” the announcement noted.
Unlike many other media companies, Belo is providing some Q4 guidance to Wall Street.
“The Company’s core local and national spot business in October 2009 finished flat with October of last year, partially as a result of the crowd-out effect on 2008 core business from political advertising. For the fourth quarter overall, we expect the percentage decline in core local and national spot business to improve from the third quarter of 2009. However, because of $35.9 million in political revenue generated in the fourth quarter of last year, the Company’s total spot revenue percentage decline in the fourth quarter of 2009 will be higher than the percentage decline experienced in the third quarter of 2009,” Shive said. “Excluding spin-off related charges, full year 2009 combined station and corporate operating costs are expected to be approximately 13 percent lower than 2008, an improvement from previous guidance,” she added.