Political bandaid not enough for MG


While ailing newspaper classifieds are the major thorn in the side of multimedia Media General, its television division had its own problems in July. Local was down, and national was down more – but stations in battleground states Florida and Ohio are already starting to reap some presidential dividends. Media General’s broadcast division took a -6.6% hit in July 2008 compared to the same month a year prior.

Local was at least within sight of flat territory, taking a -1.7% hit, but national plunged -24.1%, a loss MG blamed on sharp decreases in the automotive and financial categories. Political, on the other hand, enjoyed a cool $1M dollar increase, courtesy of McCain and Obama, hot congressional races in Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi, and state office and issue spending in Florida, Ohio and Mississippi.

The company’s publishing division suffered a July-to-July loss of -18.9%, dragged down primarily by its Florida operations (-30.8%). Elsewhere the decline was a more modest -13.4%. Classified was a loss leader, down -32.5% with big declines in the real estate, employment and automotive categories.

MG enjoyed a +47% increase in local interactive. All told, the company raked $68.3M during the month, a -13.8% decrease from the $79.2M it made the previous July.

RBR/TVBR observation: Broadcasters have been using internet income to mitigate the poor results they’ve been showing via tradition income streams. In a way, broadcasters should be used to what seems to be the emerging internet model. We’re used to providing free content. And advertising certainly can be a strong part of the internet model. But the big money may be down the road many musicians are taking. They’re giving away music and selling concert tickets, t-shirts and other paraphernalia. In general terms, that translates into free content with compelling opportunities to spend money prominently attached. Try it.