Despite a decline in TV ad sales for the non-election, non-Olympics year, LIN Media managed to post a 1% increase in Q1 revenues to $92.6 million. That was due to a big jump in digital revenues, including online ad revenues and retransmission consent fees.
Core local/national TV ad sales, excluding political (but including Olympics), were down 2% to $82.5 million. But digital revenues shot up 31% to $17.2 million. That’s not just from retrans, either, with the company noting strong growth from RMM, which LIN acquired in 2009, bringing new advertisers to the company’s online sites.
“We delivered another strong performance in the first quarter, in spite of significant uncertainty that continues to weigh on the economy. Digital revenues increased 31% compared to the prior year and are now 19% of total net revenues, the highest contribution since the launch of our digital strategy in 2007. Our growth in digital revenues, strength of our local brands and multiplatform strategy, helped offset the decrease in political revenues to begin this non election year and contributed to our overall growth,” said CEO Vince Sadusky.
The CEO noted that business is getting better for TV ad sales, with core ad sales (excluding political) pacing up 5% in Q2.
For Q1, LIN Exec. VP of Television Scott Blumenthal noted some softening in a couple of major categories, with retail down 7% and restaurants 3% “as we continue to operate in an unstable economic environment.” Other categories, though, were up, including services, +13%, education, +11%, media and communications, +6%, and medical, +5%.
What about the really big category? Automotive was flat. “We received a few canceled ad buys from both foreign and domestic manufacturers in response to Japan’s supply problems. Across our stations, domestic was down 12%, but foreign was up 16%. Local dealers were down 1% for the first quarter,” Blumenthal told analysts.
LIN is projecting that Q2 net revenues will be up 3-6%. One point of that gain will come from the acquisition of ACME’s WCWF-TV (CW) Green Bay and non-license assets of WBDT-TV (CW) Dayton (a 3rd party will hold the license), which is expected to close in Q2 following the recent FCC approval.