E.W. Scripps Television revenue was $60.4 million for the quarter, a drop of 20.5% from the same quarter last year. Local advertising was down 22.1%, while national was down 16.9%. Retransmission consent revenue climbed 41.5% to $4.2 million.
"The decrease in the local and national revenue was largely attributable to reduced spending by advertisers in the automotive, financial services and retail categories," said Scripps in a statement. "As is common for this stage of the election cycle, there was virtually no political spending in the first quarter of 2009, compared with the year-ago period that included local, state and national primaries."
The segment loss for the television division was $2.4 million in the first quarter, compared with $14.2 million in segment profit in the first quarter of 2008.
Year-over-year revenue from newspapers at Scripps fell 21.7% to $122 million.
"In the first quarter we made a series of tough decisions intended to improve our financial position through the current economic downturn and beyond into what we believe will be a restructured environment for local media," said President/CEO Rich Boehne. "The most difficult decision, but also the one that eliminated significant financial risk, was the shutdown of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. Operating losses and expenses related to the shutdown were confined to the first quarter, so now we move ahead sadly but in a much better position to weather the economic storm and focus on the television and newspapers markets where we have long-term opportunity. Unfortunately, the operating environment in the second quarter has shown no signs of improvement over our experience in the first quarter."
Boehne said significant cost cutting will help the rest of the year's financial picture. "We also suspended the company's match of employee contributions to their 401(k) accounts, reduced salaries, eliminated bonuses, and decided to freeze our pension plan, plus we reduced or cut out a long list of other expenses," he said. "These savings will become more significant as we move through the remainder of the year."
Scripps owns 10 stations.