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Station Owners See Mixed Results

Feb 2, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Five owners of television stations announced mixed results in their latest round of quarterly earnings reports, with each company claiming varying degrees of success in overcoming the absence of political advertising spending.
Last week’s slew of financial results gave a first glimpse of how well station groups were able to cope with the absence of the significant levels of political advertising spending that were seen in 2002. The results also shed light on the recovery of the advertising market, which several executives said last week has turned a corner.
Tribune, the Chicago-based publishing giant, said the advertising rebound was significant enough to help it post revenue gains in its broadcast and entertainment group, which includes 26 TV stations and its 22 percent stake in The WB Network.
The group’s revenue for the fourth quarter rose 4 percent to $353 million, up from a year-earlier figure of $339 million. For the year, the station group’s revenue jumped 8 percent to $1.6 billion-results that helped Tribune book a 75 percent gain in fourth-quarter profit to $338.4 million, or $1.06 a share, compared with a year-ago profit of $193.5 million, or 61 cents a share.
Not Faring Well
The television operations at fellow publishing companies New York Times Co., McGraw-Hill Cos., Meredith and Washington Post Co. did not fare as well.
New York Times Co. said the unit made up of its eight network-affiliated TV stations recorded a 15 percent decline in fourth-quarter revenue to $40.4 million, and operating profit tumbled 31 percent to $13.1 million.
However, gains at the company’s newspapers helped offset the broadcasting unit’s weakness and led the overall company to report a 3 percent increase in fourth-quarter profit to $110.9 million.
Meanwhile, the four ABC-affiliated TV stations owned by McGraw-Hill Cos. continued the trend, with weak political ad spending contributing to the broadcast division’s 12 percent decline in revenue to $27.8 million for the quarter, and 6 percent drop to $103.3 million for the year.
Meredith, which owns 12 network-affiliated TV stations, said its broadcast group recorded a 9 percent decline in revenue to $73.5 million for its fiscal second quarter, while operating profit fell 21 percent to $21.3 million-the result of a decline in political advertising, which more than offset a 10 percent jump in nonpolitical ad spending.
Washington Post’s six network-affiliated television stations booked a 12 percent drop in revenue to $87.9 million in the quarter and an 8 percent decline in revenue to $315.1 million for the year. Operating income fell 20 percent to $42.5 million for the quarter and 17 percent to $139.7 million for the year.
The company had an overall 7 percent decline in fourth-quarter profit to $87.5 million, or $9.15 a share, from a year-earlier profit of $93.7 million, or $9.83 a share, on a 13 percent jump in revenue to $785.5 million. For the year, the company’s profit rose 18 percent to $241.1 million on a 10 percent jump in revenue to $2.8 billion.