The Q1 revenue decline of 23.6% to $133.5 million at Belo Corporation is similar to what other TV groups have been reporting. CEO Dunia Shive noted that cost-cutting efforts have been paying off, with expenses down 14% in Q1.
“For the remainder of the year, the company’s primary focus will continue to be on cash generation and reducing debt. The company reduced its debt by $15 million during the quarter,” Shive told analysts in her quarterly conference call. Those cuts have included eliminating staff positions, so Belo now has 10% fewer employees than a year ago.
While some media companies have discontinued forward guidance, Belo is still providing investors with its best estimate of what the future holds. “”Looking to second quarter, current local and national spot pacing trends are similar to our experience in the first quarter of 2009. For full year 2009, retransmission revenues are expected to grow double digits and Internet revenues are expected to be flat to down slightly, which is lower than our previous guidance. In March, we announced several additional cost-saving measures that will affect the remainder of 2009, including the suspension of the company’s 401(k) matching contribution for all employees, a 5% salary reduction for employees who are part of the company’s management compensation programs, and a company-wide staff reduction of approximately 150 positions. These cost-saving measures along with others previously implemented are expected to lower full year 2009 combined station and corporate operating costs, excluding spin-off related charges, by at least 11%, an improvement from previous guidance. Capital expenditures are not expected to exceed $12 million for the year, down from $25.4 million in 2008,” Shive said.
Belo’s total revenues declined 23.6% in Q1 to $133.5 million. Spot sales declined 27.5%, with local down 26% and national off 24%. Automotive was the main factor, down 51%. Shive noted that auto is currently pacing down 60% in Q2, but she expects that to improve before the quarter is completed.