Belo had already reported that Q1 TV revenues were pacing in positive territory after passing the tough political comps of Q4. Now, though, the picture is even brighter.
The company’s even stronger pacings were revealed Monday as CEO Dunia Shive addressed the JPMorgan Global High Yield & Leveraged Finance Conference.
“Total spot revenue was up more than 9% in January and will be up a greater percentage in February due to the Olympics airing on our four NBC stations and the Super Bowl airing on our five CBS stations. On our year-end earnings call on February 4, 2010, we said first quarter spot revenue was pacing up in the low double-digits. Based on how we’re tracking today, first quarter spot revenue is now pacing up closer to the mid-teen level. Belo’s automotive category is currently pacing up more than 40 percent in the first quarter,” Shive told the investor gathering.
For one thing, the automotive sector is getting better. “Even while Toyota manages through its issues, we’re encouraged about the trends we’re seeing in the automotive industry. For example, Ford’s unit sales in January were up 24%, while GM’s unit sales were up 15%. Belo’s automotive category is currently pacing up more than 40% in the first quarter. Other categories performing well are financial services, healthcare, grocery, home improvement and retail furniture,” Shive said. “Retransmission revenue, which totaled $42.6 million in 2009, continues to be a developing revenue stream for us. We expect that number to grow in 2010 but at a more moderate rate as most of our major agreements have already been negotiated.”
Even though the economy is looking up, Belo is still holding the line on expenses. “Our approach to expenses in 2010 will remain cautious and will be tied to the strength and stabilization of the revenue environment. We plan to lift the wage freeze enacted in November 2008 at some point during the first half of the year, and would like to begin partially reinstating certain benefits that were suspended in 2009 during the latter half of 2010. With few exceptions, we will not be reinstating staff positions that were eliminated in 2009. We are making investments in news and content shows in certain markets that will result in increased expenses, but these expenses will be more than offset by incremental revenue. Capital expenditures for 2010 are not expected to exceed $15 million,” Shive told the JPMorgan conference.