Broadcast saves the quarter


Q3 was far from a cake walk for Media General, but lower expenses and a 24.5% improvement in broadcast division profits boosted quarterly earnings to 28 cents per share from 11 cents a year ago. Meanwhile, newspaper profits fell by half.

TV, of course, is getting a boost from political spending. However, CEO Marshall Morton says there is not the upward pressure on rates that was seen in past election cycles. Media General’s TV group is now expecting to book $20 million of political advertising in Q4. Otherwise the company, like so many others, is refraining from issuing specific guidance.

Total broadcast revenues were down 1.5% from a year ago to $1.3 million, although gross time sales were off less than 1%. Local was nearly flat, down just 0.4%, but national fell 19.7%. Political jumped by $5.9 million to $7.5 million for the quarter. Also, Olympic ad sales contributed $12.5 million. Broadcast profits increased 24.5% to $17.7 million.

Interactive media division revenues rose 9% to $10.4 million. The quarterly loss decline to $336,000 from $1 million a year earlier.

And then there was the newspaper business, where quarterly profits fell to $10.3 million from $22 million a year earlier. Revenues fell 18.2%, with ad revenues off 21.5%. Media General’s Florida newspapers were particularly hard hit, with revenues down 28.3%. Excluding Florida, newspaper revenues were off 13.6%. For the entire newspaper group, classified advertising fell 33.1%, national 20.1% and retail 12.5%.

RBR/TVBR observation: You’ve got to be nimble in this tough environment. Morton noted that some anticipated national buys for his NBC affiliates’ carriage of the Summer Olympics didn’t materialize, so Media General aggressively sold those positions to local advertisers. No one is rolling in dough these days, but smart advertisers still know a good deal when you pitch it to them.