The Scripps television stations reported $69 million in first quarter revenue, a 3.2% gain over the first quarter of 2010. Excluding the effect of the Olympics airing on Scripps' NBC affiliates in last year's first quarter, the Scripps stations showed a 4.4% increase in revenue.
The increase comes despite the loss of a traditional moneymaker. Late in 2010, Scripps announced a five-year affiliation agreement involving six of its stations and the ABC network, along with five year deals with NBC. Scripps says "the new ABC and NBC agreements discontinue the payment of affiliation fees from the networks to the television stations. Instead, Scripps will pay a licensing fee for the networks' programming. As a result, Scripps recorded no network compensation revenue in the first quarter of 2011, compared with nearly $800,000 of network compensation revenue a year ago."
Scripps said the network payments "will be more than offset" by a reduction in syndication costs when Oprah Winfrey goes off broadcast TV.
Revenue from Scripps newspapers declined 5.7% in the quarter to $106 million.
"Our first quarter results were largely as projected, with the exception being the weaker-than-anticipated newspaper advertising that affected the entire industry," said Rich Boehne, Scripps president and CEO. "Television, despite a number of headwinds, reported one of the best revenue increases in the industry, leading us to believe audiences are responding to our commitment to strengthen our news organizations in the communities we serve."
Retransmission consent revenues increased 47% year over year to $4 million. Local TV advertising was up 3.5% in the quarter and national was down 1%. Political advertising kicked in $444,000.
Scripps reported digital revenue was $2.1 million, an increase of 29% compared with the first quarter of 2010.
TV revenues are expected to be up in the mid-single digits in the second quarter, said Scripps.