“Broadcast had a good quarter,” declared Journal Communications CEO Steve Smith as he reported to Wall Street on Q4. Both radio and television saw ad pacings improve throughout the quarter.
Overall, broadcasting revenues were down 13.3% in Q4 to $46.1 million. A lot of that was due to to having only $1.5 million in political advertising, versus $6.7 million a year earlier.
TV revenues declined 15.2% to $28.3 million, but excluding political the decline was only 1.4%. Retransmission consent payments nearly doubled to $1 million. Adjusted operating earnings for TV slipped only slightly to $4.8 million from $4.9 million.
Radio revenues were down 10% in Q4 to $17.8 million, but that drop was reduced to 7.5% excluding political. Adjusted operating earnings declined 8.3% to $3.9 million.
Publishing revenues declined 16.4% to $50.2 million, with weakness continuing in all ad categories. However, adjusted operating earnings improved 140.9% to $8.6 million.
Journal did not provide specific guidance for Q1 or 2010, but Smith noted that ad trends for both radio and TV improved month by month in Q4. Auto ad revenues for the TV stations were down only 7% in December.
“Although we are seeing signs of improvement, our sunbelt markets – especially Las Vegas – continue to face significant economic challenges,” Smith told analysts.
With three NBC affiliates, Journal is looking for a Q1 boost from Olympics advertising. Smith said the company expects Olympics-related advertising to total over $2 million. However, that is more in line with the $2 million from the 2008 Summer Olympics than the $3 million booked from the previous Winter Olympics in 2006. Journal’s NBC affiliates are in Milwaukee and Green Bay, WI – both strong markets for winter sports – along with Palm Springs, CA.
As Journal employees have already been informed, the wage cuts the company instituted last year will remain in effect through the first half of 2010. After that, Smith said, he hopes to be able to resume some performance-based raises.