Down Times at Hearst-Argyle


Fourth quarter net earnings fell 32% and revenue dropped 8%, to $216.6 million at Hearst-Argyle Television, the company reported.

Fourth quarter earnings per share were $.35, down from $.46 in the same quarter of 2006. For the full year, Hearst-Argyle recorded EPS of $.69, compared to $1.06 in 2006.

The quarter saw a $30.9 million decrease in net political revenue. Net digital media revenue was up 25% for the quarter to $6.6 million, and retransmission consent revenue was up 20% to $5.5 million.

For the year, total revenue of $755.7 million was down 4% from the full 2006, and earnings per share down 35%.

Hearst-Argyle President/CEO David Barrett acknowledged that 2007 was a particularly trying year for the company, which owns 26 TV stations.

“It is hard to recall a period when so many attention-grabbing factors came into play and directly impacted our business,” he said, “from the housing and automotive slumps, to credit and capital market volatility at the macro level, to network ratings challenges, a writers' strike, and continuing technology-driven media consumption behaviors that impact our industry.”

Barrett was optimistic that political spending, the Olympics and the company's digital projects would boost Hearst-Argyle in 2008, though he did acknowledge “the continuing uncertainty of recent economic trends.