Media General reported fourth quarter operating income of $36.4 million, a 12% gain from the fourth quarter of 2009. A 29% increase in broadcast revenue in the period, driven by political advertising, paced Media General to the blockbuster quarter.
Total revenues in the quarter increased 7.2% to nearly $190 million.
"In the fourth quarter of 2010, our broadcast-intensive markets--Mid-South and Ohio/Rhode Island--generated significantly higher profits compared with the prior year," said Marshall N. Morton, president and chief executive officer of Media General. "Our television stations, most of which are rated number one or two in their markets, were in an excellent position again this year to attract political advertising dollars. Operating results benefited from nearly $24 million in fourth quarter political revenues, compared with $3.7 million last year."
Morton said TV's core business was up too. "In the fourth quarter, local time sales grew nearly 6% and national time sales increased nominally, which was a good performance given some displacement of transactional advertising by political issue and candidate spending," he said. "Automotive advertising, in particular, was strong."
For the first quarter of 2011, Media General expects total revenues in the range of level to 3% down compared with last year. Broadcast revenues are expected to mirror the overall forecast, "due mostly to the absence of political, Olympics and Super Bowl advertising revenues," said Media General in its earnings report, "partially offset by strengthening of the transactional business."