Sinclair Broadcast Group reported first quarter net broadcast revenue of $373.9 million, up 47.8% from the same quarter a year before. Operating income was $81 million, an increase of 27.2%. Big-tent TV events such as the Super Bowl (31 Fox affiliates) and Olympics (12 NBC affiliates) helped Sinclair’s revenue picture, as did Sinclair’s station acquisitions.
It represented a healthy rebound in the quarter for Sinclair. "There were many positives in the first quarter that reflect our solid underlying fundamentals, despite the slower than usual start to the year due to the impact of the severe and frigid weather in many of our markets," commented David Smith, president and CEO. "The first quarter benefited from incremental Super Bowl, Olympic and retransmission consent fee revenues, while political revenues exceeded expectations. We also benefited from lower television operating expenses across many of our stations.”
Local broadcast revenues were up 49.6% versus the first quarter of 2013, while national revenues grew 40.9%.
Smith said Sinclair’s main focus now is on closing its Allbritton station acquisition and “lobbying to reform broadcast ownership regulatory inequality." Allbritton, New Age and a deal for WGXA Macon were not factored into first quarter earnings as they await regulatory approval.
Sinclair forecasts second quarter broadcast revenue to be up 41.8% to 43.1%.
"As we look to the remainder of the year, early indications are that the political season could heat up more than we originally anticipated," said David Amy, executive VP and chief operating officer. "The automotive industry also appears to be redeploying advertising budgets that they reduced as a result of the bad weather that impacted much of the country in the first quarter. Although we are seeing some weakness in Fox primetime, CBS ratings remain strong and NBC ratings are improving.”