Tribune's quarter better than expected


Q3 revenues were down, but only 4% for Tribune Company, not the 7% that Wall Street had expected, and earnings per share were much better than expected. CEO Dennis FitzSimons said TV ad revenues improved as the quarter went on and newspaper revenue trends improved slightly. FitzSimons still says the company expects to complete its going private transaction in Q4, but that still needs FCC waiver approvals.

Tribune has not been conducting quarterly conference calls with analysts since announcing its plan to go private. Even so, it still issues detailed quarterly earnings reports. The company did not, however, provide any forward guidance, except about hoping to close the transaction in Q4.

"In television, ad revenue improved as the quarter progressed. New York finished the quarter strong on higher ratings from new syndicated programming and the CW network’s fall launch. Chicago also had a good September, thanks in part to Chicago Cubs telecasts," FitzSimons said in the quarterly announcement. TV revenues rose 3.9% for Q3 to 288.3 million, with the gain credited mostly to cable retransmission consent payments. TV operating cash flow gained 14.3% to 98.2 million.

Radio/Entertainment revenues, including the lone radio property WGN-AM Chicago, rose 2.4% to 117.8 million. But with fewer home games for the Chicago Cubs than a year ago, cash flow decreased 8.7% to 32.3 million.

Total revenues for the Broadcasting and Entertainment division rose 3.4% to 406.1 million and cash flow gained 7.6% to 130.5 million.

That was the good news. In Publishing, revenues declined 7.3% to 870.8 million and operating cash flow slumped 11.3% to 165.6 million. Even so, FitzSimons said publishing revenue trends improved slightly. Retail advertising for the newspapers declined 6%, while national rose 2%. Classified, however, dropped 18%.