With the lack of political advertising, Scripps reported a decline in total television advertising in Q4, although core business was up. And December was up double digits heading into the New Year.
Q4 TV revenues were down 20.8% to $73.9 million, but excluding political that would have been a 5.4% gain. Local rose 2.9% to $42.7 million. National was up 7.2% to $22.2 million. But political declined to $2.9 million from $26 million in Q4 2008, which was a federal election year – as will be 2010.
“The increase in revenue from local and national advertisers was largely attributable to improved spending by advertisers in the retail and services categories, which experienced double-digit year-over-year increases. Automotive advertising, the largest category at a typical television station, was flat in the fourth quarter, but was up 12 percent year-over-year in December. Total advertising revenue in the month of December was up 11 percent compared with the prior-year period,” the company reported. Although Scripps did not give specific guidance for Q1, officials did confirm that the TV group is seeing the same strong growth reported by its peers.
Also in Q4, retransmission consent revenues more than doubled to $2 million.
Meanwhile, newspaper revenues fell 15% to $117 million, with advertising revenues down 20% to $83.4 million. Local, classified, national, preprint and online were all down for the quarter. The newspaper division reported that it is still experiencing a drag from its heavy exposure to markets in Florida and California, while the TV division reported the opposite – that some of its strongest growth is now in those two states.
Q4 revenues for the United Media Licensing division fell 15% to $26.4 million, in part because of a pickup a year earlier by ABC of additional “Peanuts” specials and a renegotiated contract with MetLife. Scripps announced that it is exploring a possible sale or other strategic options for United Media.
Also worth noting from the Q4 report – Scripps is expecting a $45 million federal income tax refund in 2010. As for guidance, the company offered only broad parameters:
“Forecasting first-quarter performance is complicated by the effect of economic uncertainty on the decisions of advertisers. At this point, management believes the generally improving business trends reported in the fourth quarter of 2009 will continue in the first quarter of 2010.
During the coming year, the company will continue to implement the restructuring of certain functions and the standardization and centralization of key systems and processes in the newspaper division. This pursuit of operational efficiencies could result in restructuring charges of up to $22 million during the course of 2010.
For the full year 2010, capital expenditures are expected to be approximately $20 million, and depreciation and amortization will be approximately $45 million. Full-year corporate expenses are expected to be approximately $32 million.”