Net revenues rose 17% in Q3 for Belo Corporation to $163.9 million, with political supercharging the recovery in core advertising business. CEO Dunia Shive told analysts that based on current pacings, spot sales are likely to be up over 20% for Q4.
“Belo’s total revenue grew 17 percent in the third quarter of 2010 making it the best quarter of the year in terms of year-over-year revenue growth. The strong revenue performance was due primarily to continued recovery in our core spot advertising business and $11.2 million in political revenue. The majority of our political revenue came from our television stations in Washington, Missouri and Texas. Core spot advertising revenue, which excludes political, increased 10% in the third quarter of 2010 compared to the third quarter of 2009,” Shive said.
Spot sales, including political, were up 17.5%. Local gained 5% and national 20%. And like so many other TV groups, Belo reported a strong recovery in automotive advertising, up 30%. But several other categories also posted double-digit gains, including financial services, telecommunications, retail and travel.
Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter was up 35% to $59 million. Operating costs were up, but the 8.5% rise was far eclipsed by the gain in revenues.
During Q3 Belo finally completed the affiliation renewals for its ABC stations. The company’s CBS affiliations were also renewed.
In her discussion with Wall Street analysts, Shive said ad sales, excluding political, look to be up in the low- to mid-single digits, but she noted that was partly due to other business being crowded out by political in the days leading up to the mid-term election. “Fourth quarter is currently pacing strong,” Shive said. October, she said, was obviously the strongest month of the quarter due to political, but that core growth was lowest because of the crowd-out effect. “Actually November and December do look good. One thing to keep in mind is that comps will be tougher in December. If you remember, our core spot in December of 2009 was actually up last year, I think it was up about 5%,” the CEO noted.