E.W. Scripps reported first quarter television station revenue of $99.6 million, compared with $69 million in the first quarter of 2011, a gain of nearly 31%. The first quarter included revenue from nine television stations that were acquired December 30. On a same-station basis, television revenue increased 11.7% in the quarter to $77 million.
Scripps reported overall first quarter revenues of $207 million, a healthy 15% gain from the same quarter a year ago. Total operating expenses were $199 million, compared with $180 million in the year-ago quarter. Excluding the new stations, total operating expenses in the most recent quarter were $179 million.
"We're off to an encouraging start in 2012," said Rich Boehne, Scripps president and CEO. "Revenue in our TV and newspaper markets came in a little better than expected and the associated cash expenses were down, despite the investments we're making in new digital products and services.
"In the television division, our newly acquired stations in Indianapolis, Denver, San Diego and Bakersfield performed as planned in their first 90 days under Scripps ownership," Boehne continued. "Our other nine markets enjoyed good revenue growth in the first quarter due, in part, to strong demand for ad time by automakers and dealers, and thanks to our continued focus on bringing new advertisers to television for the first time."
Boehne is bullish on the company's digital strategy. "Across both divisions, we are just beginning an aggressive schedule of new product launches for smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops across all of our markets," he said. "We saw some early success with our streaming media services, particularly in the Cincinnati and Tulsa regions, when dangerous spring tornadoes swept through those markets in April. Downloads of free and paid apps skyrocketed as viewers sought ways to continue receiving potentially life-saving weather programming once the storms hit and homes lost electrical service."
The television division's segment profit in the first quarter was $17.9 million, compared with $6.8 million in the year-ago period.
Local TV ad revenue was up 37% in the quarter and national grew 28%. Political represented $4.7 million in the first quarter, while retransmission consent revenue nearly doubled in the quarter.
Ad revenue declines are "narrowing" in the newspaper division, said Boehne. Total newspaper revenue in the first quarter was $104 million, down 1.7% from the first quarter of 2011. Revenue growth of nearly 10 percent at the Naples (Fla.) Daily News helped that scenario.
Scripps forecasts television revenues to be up more than 40% in the second quarter.