Belo Reports 24% Decrease in Q1 Revenue

Auto down a whopping 51%

Belo Corp. reported first quarter revenues decreased 23.6%, compared to the first quarter last year. Total spot revenue was down 27.5%, with a 26% freefall in local and a 24% decrease in national advertising. Automotive advertising plummeted 51%.

Advertising revenue on the Belo Websites decreased 5.4% to $6.5 million in the quarter. Retransmission revenue was $9.7 million, a 10% increase over the same quarter last year. Total station expenses dropped 13%.

Belo reported GAAP net earnings per share of $0.09 in the first quarter, compared to a GAAP net loss per share of $0.15 in the first quarter of 2008.

A revenue decrease around 25% has emerged as the norm in broadcasting these days. This week alone, LIN announced net revenue was down 20%, Meredith's broadcast revenue had slipped 27%, Fisher was at 27%, and McGraw-Hill broadcast revenue fell 23%.

Belo President/CEO Dunia A. Shive said the company is taking major measures to offset the ad slump. "The company's cost-saving measures, which included the holding of open positions company-wide, a wage freeze enacted in November 2008, staff reductions in certain markets and other cost-saving measures, led to a 14% reduction in combined station and corporate operating costs in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the first quarter of 2008, excluding spin-off related charges and non-cash pension expense," she said.

Shive said the revenue decrease "is indicative of the soft advertising environment prevalent throughout the country, especially in the automotive category. Retransmission revenue, however, increased 10% in the first quarter of 2009. For the remainder of the year, the company's primary focus will continue to be on cash generation and reducing debt. The company reduced its debt by $15 million during the quarter."

Dallas-based Belo owns 20 stations.