Q4 exceeded Wall Street guidance for LIN


Revenues shot up 24% to $125.1 million in Q4 for LIN Media, topping even the high end of its guidance to Wall Street. With political money in the rearview mirror, the company says to expect Q1 to be flat to down 1% – but up about 4% excluding political and Olympics revenues.

“We achieved our highest EBITDA over the last decade in both dollars and margin percentage,” CEO Vince Sadusky proudly reported in his conference call with analysts.

According to Wells Fargo Securities analyst Marci Ryvicker EBITDA was $52 million, which beat her expectation of $47 million. The EBITDA margin was 41%.

However, LIN’s guidance for Q1 was a bit below expectations. That flat to -1% is $90.6-91.8 million, while the Street consensus had been $92.4 million.

Detailing Q4 and the past year, LIN Exec. VP of Television Scott Blumenthal reported that political advertising was $28.2 million (vs. only $8.3 million a year earlier) for Q4 and $49.4 million (vs. $13.2 million) for all of 2010. Excluding political, national was up 4% to $32.3 million in Q4 and gained 18% for the year to $120 million. Local rose 4% in Q4 to $60.5 million and increased 8% to $231.5 million for 2010.

“Automotive, our largest advertising category, continues to show improvement, with a 10% increase in the 4th quarter,” Blumenthal noted.

LIN’s digital revenues, including Internet ad revenues, retransmission consent fees and the nascent mobile ad business, increased 28% in Q4 to $17.1 million in Q4 and jumped 42% for the year to $43 million. Sadusky noted that a number of retrans agreements are up for renewal this year, but refused to provide any details. He is, though, bullish on mobile. “Although it is still at a relatively early stage, we also grew our mobile revenues significantly, as a result of a 113% increase in our mobile impressions that reached 202 million for the full year,” he said.