Q4 revenues for Belo Corporation came in slightly ahead of Wall Street expectations as $180.3 million. That was down 13% from a year earlier, which had included lots of political advertising. Excluding political, Belo CEO Dunia Shive notes that Q4 was up 3% for core spot sales.
“The automotive category delivered its strongest quarter of the year and we’re pleased to see that momentum continue into the first quarter of 2012,” said Shive. “Cycling against a $30 million decrease in political revenue from the fourth quarter of 2010, total revenue decreased $26 million, or 13 percent, in the fourth quarter of 2011,” she noted.
“With the savings related to the conclusion of the Oprah show last fall and the Company’s continued expense management, combined station and corporate operating costs were down 6% in the fourth quarter of 2011. Our station adjusted EBITDA totaled $76 million in the fourth quarter and the station adjusted EBITDA margin was 42%,” Shive said of the Q4 results.
Of course, 2012 is an election year, so Belo is preparing for that windfall – plus the benefits of the Super Bowl and Summer Olympics on its four NBC stations. One question now is just when the first round of political money, from the primary elections, will show up on the books.
“Based on recent pacings, we currently expect first quarter 2012 total revenue to be up 3 to 5 percent depending on the timing of the Texas primary, which is our main source of expected political revenue in the first quarter. The Texas primary is currently scheduled for April 3; however, there is a possibility that it will be moved to a later date, as the Texas Legislature’s redistricting plan remains in dispute. The final timing of the Texas primary will determine how much of the related political revenue will occur in the first quarter versus the second quarter. We would expect first quarter total revenue to be on the higher end of the range if the dispute is resolved quickly and the primary is held on April 3,” Shive explained. On the expense side, she said, combined station and corporate operating costs are currently expected to be up about 1% in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the first quarter of 2011.
RBR-TVBR observation: We’ll defer to Wells Fargo Securities analyst Marci Ryvicker for commentary: “Q1 guidance range is ahead of our expectations. BLC is guiding Q1 total revenue up 3-5% versus our +3% and the Street’s +4%. BLC’s Q1 revenue will depend on the timing of the Texas primary, which is currently scheduled for April 3 but may be moved as the Texas Legislature’s redistricting plan remains in dispute. If the primary remains as is, BLC expects to come in at the high end of its revenue guidance range. On the expense side, combined station and corporate operating costs are currently expected to be up 1% versus our expectation of flat.”