Media General reported broadcast revenue of $65.1 million in the third quarter, down 13% from the $75 million it reported in last year's third quarter. Total revenues were $144.7 million, down 11% from the $163.2 million it reported in 2010's third quarter. Operating income was $5.7 million, excluding non cash goodwill impairment, down from $11.5 million in last year's third quarter.
Total operating costs decreased 8.4%, and Marshall Morton, president and CEO, said the company "remains committed to strong expense management."
Station groups are up against difficult comparisons this quarter, as last year's third quarter was rich in political advertising. Morton said as much about Media General's earnings. Excluding political, Morton said broadcast revenues for the quarter decreased 2.4%. Broadcast cash flow was $19 million.
"Media General's third-quarter results reflected an expected but significant drop in political revenues in this off-election year as well as general economic uncertainty," said Morton. "A lack of clarity in the global financial markets, significant uncertainty regarding the U.S. government's plan of action domestically and a downward turn in the economy all contributed to a further softening of the advertising market."
Local media website revenue was up 13%.
Morton said the fourth quarter should be better for Media General's TV and newspaper properties.
"Despite a challenging economic environment, Media General has several positive catalysts on the horizon. In the fourth quarter, we are seeing a welcome strengthening in automotive advertising," he said. "We may see political revenues advance into the latter part of this year from early primaries in Florida and South Carolina."
Fourth-quarter broadcast pacings are 9-11% ahead of last year, said Morton, excluding political advertising. He noted that 2012 will feature significant political revenue, along with Summer Olympics and Super Bowl advertising bounces for Media General's eight NBC stations.