Political windfall not enough for Hearst-Argyle


CEO David Barrett says every Hearst-Argyle Television station booked some political advertising in Q1, with the biggest chunk coming from the New Hampshire presidential primary. But that political windfall wasn’t enough to counter the soft economy and total revenues were down 2.6% for the quarter to $165.1 million.

Net ad sales, excluding $9.6 million in political, were down 9% to $132.9 million. Barrett noted softness in automotive, retail, furniture, restaurant, movie and health services, while attractions, consumer packaged goods, media, financial services and home improvement services were up. Twelve Hearst-Argyle stations were up in Q1 and Barrett noted some regional differences, with the companies medium-market Midwest stations holding up well.

Digital media revenues were up 22% for the quarter to $9.6 million and retransmission consent revenues rose 22% as well to $6.3 million.

Hearst-Argyle doesn’t give quarterly guidance, but Barrett said there was a modest change to the good for auto in Q2, but most categories were in the “same zone” as in Q1. The company updated its full year 2008 guidance to Wall Street, reducing expected expenditures for salaries and programming.

On the bottom line, Hearst-Argyle reported earnings per share of 11 cents for Q1, up from five cents a year ago. Q1 this year, however, included 10 cents per share from the company’s final settlement with its insurance carriers for lost property, lost income and extra expenses incurred due to Hurricane Katrina.