Media General rides Olympics, political to big Q3 gains


Media GeneralA considerably slimmer Media General – it shed all of its newspaper properties in the past year – put some gaudy comp percentages on the board in Q3, crediting strong stations in battleground states and an eight-station contingent of NBC affiliates that profited during the Olympics.

Marshall N. Morton, president and chief executive officer of Media General, said, “Operating income was more than four times last year, mostly driven by a nearly 42% increase in revenues. Political revenues totaled nearly $20 million and reflected the strong positions of our television stations in their markets and the presence of six Media General stations in presidential battleground states.  Our eight NBC stations generated a record $15.5 million of revenues from the Summer Olympics, capitalizing on record viewership for the London games.  Gross time sales, excluding Political revenues, increased 16.8% in the third quarter, reflecting growth in several major advertising categories and the strength of the Olympics advertising.”

The $40.8M realized in broadcast cash flow was up from $19.3M in Q3 2011, and the BCF margin grew 43.5%, compared to 29.1% the year prior. This was based on a total revenue increase of about $28M from $66.1M to $93.8M.

A big factor for MG was a 45% increase in automotive, partially built on easy comps attributable to the Japanese earthquake/tsunami of 2011 that disrupted its automotive exports.

The company is also benefitting from increased retransmission consent income, up 80% to $9.4M for the quarter.

Digital income attributable to television station websites grew 20.7% to $2.6M.

Looking ahead, Morton said the company is expecting a 25%-28% increase in revenue during Q4, both due to another month of political income and a concerted effort to recapture advertising that has been displaced by political saturation. MG is also concentrating on producing quality local content, which attracts more viewers and hence more advertising income.

Discussing political displacement, MG execs said it is important to work closely with advertisers who are getting crowded off the schedule – it was a problem in 2010 and it’s a problem this year, and is getting the active attention of the group.