A million bucks from political advertising didn’t turn February around for the Media General television group. Broadcast revenues declined 4% to 25.1 million, with gross ad sales down 5.7%. The company said that political boost came from strong presidential campaign spending at its NBC stations in Ohio and Rhode Island, as well as early gubernatorial spending in North Carolina, congressional races in Mississippi and Ohio, and issue spending in Ohio. Local spot sales declined 4%, primarily from lower furniture store, telecommunications, and automotive advertising, partially offset by higher spending in the fast food category. National time sales declined 17% as a result of decreased advertising in the telecommunications, automotive and corporate categories.
Publishing revenues plunged 15.4% to 36.5 million, with the tough classified market (real estate and employment) in Tampa the biggest factor. Excluding Florida, publishing revenues were down 6.2%.
CEO Marshall Morton says the company expects to report a loss from continuing operations (not including five TV stations classified as held for sale) of 40-45 cents per share for Q1, so he is keeping a tight fist on expenses. “In the Broadcast Division, we are experiencing very soft transactional- based business across a number of markets and key categories, including telecommunications, automotive and furniture. In response, each of our stations is implementing further cost-reduction initiatives and pursuing new business development opportunities. The Broadcast Division also is deferring until later in the year all capital expenditures that are not required for Digital TV or critical to on-air operations,” Morton said.