A late surge in auto and political advertising brought Q4 revenues in above guidance for Sinclair Broadcast Group. CEO David Smith told investors that Q1 is pacing up “by low double digit percents, despite only three of our 58 owned and operated stations having coverage of the Olympics and Super Bowl.”
Revenues from Sinclair’s continuing operations were down 6.4% in Q4 to $153.9 million. CFO David Amy said the significant improvement from guidance in November that the quarter would be down around 11% came from increased spending in the auto sector and political spending related to healthcare reform.
With that improvement, Sinclair TV group COO Steve Marks said revenues in Q4 were up 7.9% excluding political. Local gained 2.1%, or 7.7% excluding political, and national fell 23%, which flipped to a gain of 8.4% excluding pollitical.
“The ad recession is behind us,” Marks declared, noting the guidance that Q1 is expected to be up double digits. The auto sector, by the way, is pacing up 20%.
Broadcast cash flow declined only 4% to $68.3 million, which was also considerably better than the November guidance.
Asked about the ongoing negotiations with ABC over affiliation agreements, CEO Smith downplayed any significance to the series of month-to-month extensions. He said ABC is busy in affiliate negotiations with numerous affiliate companies, so “they come back to us when they get time.” He added, “I don’t think it’s going to take much longer, honestly, but we don’t know that for a fact.