Liberty Media CEO Robert Bennett announced last Wednesday that he will retire as chief executive of the media company April 1, 2006. Liberty Chairman John Malone will assume the CEO title until a successor is named. Mr. Bennett’s retirement follows nine years as CEO of the company and five years as its chief financial officer. He will remain a Liberty director and continue to serve as president and director of Discovery Holding Co., the company Liberty spun off last month.
DirecTV Swings to Quarterly Profit
DirecTV announced last week that it posted a profit in the second quarter, buoyed by subscriber growth that drove up revenue but generally disappointed analysts. The El Segundo-based satellite operator, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., swung to a profit of $162 million, compared with a loss of $13 million a year ago. The 2005 numbers include a $28 million gain related to the sale of DirecTV Latin America subscribers in Mexico. Revenue surged 21 percent to $3.2 billion. The company had 964,000 gross subscriber additions
during the quarter. But its net new subscriber number of 225,000 booked in the quarter fell short of analysts’ projections of 300,000 and above. The culprit for the shortfall was a higher rate of customer defections, much of which was the result of disconnections by DirecTV as it looks to improve the credit quality of its subscriber base.
Station Groups See Revenue Declines
An uneven advertising market, combined with a lack of political advertising, led a trio of television station groups to post second-quarter revenue declines, though profit results were mixed. Sinclair Broadcast Group, the Baltimore-based owner of 61 television stations, said its second-quarter profit surged to $142.6 million from a year-earlier figure of $20.2 million, driven by a $128.5 million gain related to the sale of its Sacramento television station to Viacom earlier this year. Revenue slipped 2 percent to $163.1 million. Nexstar Broadcasting Group, which owns 46 television stations, reported that it swung to a second-quarter loss of $20.9 million, compared with a year-earlier profit of $1.2 million. Revenue fell more than 5 percent to $57.9 million. And though Liberty Corp., the South Carolina-based owner of 15 network-affiliated stations, reported a 3 percent revenue decline to $53.3 million, it was able to more than double its second-quarter profit to $8.3 million from a year-earlier profit figure of nearly $3.1 million.
TV Guide Parent Gemstar Posts Loss
Gemstar-TV Guide International said last week that it swung to a second-quarter loss of $5.1 million, compared with a year-earlier profit of $42 million, hurt by continued weakness at its flagship TV Guide magazine. The 2004 figure included $33.4 million in one-time gains associated with a legal settlement and a tax benefit. Revenue dipped slightly to $177 million from a year-earlier $178.5 million. The main engine behind the results was persistent weakness at the company’s publishing unit, which was weighed down primarily by advertising and circulation declines at TV Guide. Those results partly offset gains in the company’s cable and satellite segment, which provides interactive program guides, and in the consumer electronics division, which licenses program guide technology to consumer-electronics manufacturers. The company said recently it is completely revamping TV Guide, which will no longer carry comprehensive television program listings. Instead, it is expected to offer more articles and a guide to the best available programming each week.
Gray TV to Spin Off Newspapers, Wireless
In a move designed to improve the operational and financial focus of its various businesses, broadcast group Gray Television said last week that it plans to spin off its five daily newspapers and wireless businesses into a separately traded public company to be named Triple Crown Media. As part of the transaction, the company also announced that Triple Crown will acquire Bull Run Corp., an Atlanta-based sports marketing company.