Investors frustrated with Media General (audio)


Media General CEO Marshall Morton didn’t really face hostile questioning in his quarterly conference call so much as he got questions from investment managers frustrated by the company’s performance. One stated that he was just trying to figure out how to make money on his investment in the company after it reported disappointing results for Q3.

Morton had indicated in his opening remarks that he was encouraged by the pricing in a couple of recent TV deals. And while McGraw-Hill didn’t state publicly that the cash flow multiple on its four-station sale to Scripps, Morton noted reports by analysts that put the multiple for the three larger-market stations at 10 times.

That led to a question in the Q&A session as to whether Morton would consider selling some TV stations to improve the company’s balance sheet.

Marshall Morton

So Morton didn’t rule out selling, but he also didn’t indicate any inclination to hang a “for sale” sign on any particular station or stations either.

But the CEO did shoot down the idea of splitting Media General, as Belo did a few years back, into separate newspaper and TV companies. “I think we’re getting more out of our markets by being able to sell all three platforms,” Morton said, referring to print, TV and digital/mobile.

RBR-TVBR observation: No doubt people will be looking at what TV assets Media General might be most willing to part with. With the regional structure the company has been touting to promote cross-media sales efforts, the obvious outlying properties where Media General has standalone TV stations and no newspaper property nearby are WCMH-TV (NBC) Columbus, OH and WJAR-TV (NBC) Providence, RI. But it also has a string of three CBS affiliates in Jackson and Hattiesburg, MS and Mobile, AL which sit far from any print holdings.