Tough times at Scripps


A day after informing employees of pay cuts for senior management, a pension plan freeze and suspension of the company’s 401(k) plan match, E.W. Scripps Company CEO Rich Boehne announced that Q4 revenues were down 6.2%. TV revenues rose, but only because of political, with local and national each down 26.9%. Newspaper ad revenues fell 19.8%. The company is giving no forward guidance, except to say that the soft ad environment of Q4 has continued into Q1.

“This has been a miserable exercise to undertake, but it is one that had to be done,” Boehne said of the cost-cutting efforts, which included significant layoffs last year, along with the latest measures to reduce overhead.

Q4 results included $5 million in severance costs from the newspaper division. A decision is coming soon on the fate of The Rocky Mountain News, which Scripps put up for sale in December. Bids were due a month ago, but Boehne had no comment on where the process stands.

Television revenues increased 2.1% in Q4 to $93.4 million. That include $26 million of political advertising, vs. $1.3 million in Q4 2007. Local was down 26.9% to $41.5 million and national dropped by the same 26.9% to $20.8 million. Television segment profit was up 1.3% to $31.1 million.

For the newspapers managed solely by Scripps, Q4 revenues fell 16.5% to $137.5 million, with ad revenues down 19.8% to $104.8 million. Local fell 15.1% to $32.1 million, national was off 18% to $27.7 million and classified plunged 31.2% to $27.7 million.

Scripps reported a loss from continue operations before income taxes an minority interests of $19.4 million, compared to a positive $44.7 million a year earlier.