Political advertising and a weak economy essentially canceled each other out at the Hearst-Argyle stations.
Total third quarter revenue was $176.2 million -- flat compared to the same quarter last year. A $16.9 million (11.5%) drop in net ad sales, excluding political ads, countered a $16.7 million increase in net political revenue, which boosted the political total to $23.7 million at Hearst-Argyle.
Net digital revenue dropped 6% for the quarter, to $4.9 million, and retransmission consent revenue was up 22%.
President/CEO David Barrett said the 26 Hearst-Argyle stations, which include WCVB Boston, KCCI Des Moines and WBAL Baltimore, felt the impact of the weak economic picture.
"The significant credit market disruption and pervasive economic weakness, so evident domestically and globally, have had an adverse impact on our local television business,” he said, “limiting growth opportunities that are typical in an election and Olympics year. Nevertheless, our third quarter results do reflect modest growth in net income and earnings per share over prior year, largely as a result of very strong political ad spending in numerous communities where we own and operate leading local news stations. However, like so many others, we have experienced cancellations and reductions in core ad spending in third quarter and for the full year, which are difficult to overcome.”
Barrett looked ahead to the brighter days for broadcasting.
"As a company, we are confronting the challenges and realities of our business -- and the economy at large,” he said, “without losing faith in what's possible for our dominant local media assets in better economic times to come."