Media General Broadcast Rev Down 7%

Political can't completely offset local and national spots

Media General's Broadcast Division revenue declined $6.6 million, or 7%, in the fourth quarter last year, compared to the previous fourth quarter. Excluding severance expense from both years, broadcast profit for the fourth quarter 2008 was $24.3 million, up 2.6% from the previous Q4. Political revenues totaled $23.4 million, thanks primarily to presidential spending in hot races in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia, and local elections elsewhere.

Broadcast expenses decreased more than 10 percent, due in part to workforce reductions. Local time sales declined $14.9 million, or 25.6%, at Media General's stations, while National time sales decreased $10.6 million, or 30.6%. Media General cited automotive advertising as the main culprit.

Richmond-based Media General reported a net loss for the fourth quarter of 2008 of $85.5 million, or $3.86 per diluted share, including a non-cash pre-tax impairment charge of $130.4 million ($83.1 million after-tax). This compares to net income in 2007 of $9.6 million, or 43 cents per diluted share.

"The Publishing Division's lower fourth-quarter results were due to the continuation of the declining economic trends that we have experienced all year, particularly in Florida," said President/CEO Marshall N. Morton. "In the Broadcast Division, strong Political revenues largely offset lower National and Local transactional sales."

Media General's Interactive Media Division showed an operating loss of $1.6 million, compared with a loss of $2.6 million in the same quarter a year before.

Media General owns 19 stations and a host of newspaper properties.