Total spot revenue, including political, was down 27.5% with 26% and 24% decreases in local and national spot, respectively. Retrans revenue, however, showed a 10% increase.
Belo Corp., one of the nation’s largest pure-play, publicly-traded television companies, today reported total revenues decreased 23.6 percent in the first quarter of 2009 versus the first quarter of 2008.
Total spot revenue, including political, was down 27.5 percent with 26 percent and 24 percent decreases in local and national spot, respectively.
The company said first quarter revenues were affected by the soft advertising environment, particularly in the automotive category which was down 51 percent. Political revenues in the first quarter of 2009 were $4.4 million lower than the first quarter of 2008.
Advertising revenue associated with Belo’s Web sites decreased 5.4 percent to $6.5 million in the first quarter 2009, representing almost 5 percent of Belo’s total revenue.
Retransmission revenue totaled $9.7 million in the first quarter of 2009, a 10 percent increase compared to the first quarter of 2008, and represents over 7 percent of the company’s total revenue.
Total station expenses decreased 13 percent in the first quarter of 2009 versus the same period last year. Station EBITDA in the first quarter of 2009 was down 45 percent versus the prior year. The station EBITDA margin for the first quarter of 2009 was 24.3 percent compared to 33.6 percent in the first quarter of 2008.
Dunia A. Shive, Belo’s president-CEO, said: “The company’s cost-saving measures, which included the holding of open positions company-wide, a wage freeze enacted in November 2008, staff reductions in certain markets and other cost-saving measures, led to a 14 percent reduction in combined station and corporate operating costs in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the first quarter of 2008, excluding spin-off related charges and non-cash pension expense.
“Belo’s first quarter total revenue declined 23.6 percent from the first quarter of 2008 and is indicative of the soft advertising environment prevalent throughout the country, especially in the automotive category. Retransmission revenue, however, increased 10 percent in the first quarter of 2009. For the remainder of the year, the company’s primary focus will continue to be on cash generation and reducing debt. The company reduced its debt by $15 million during the quarter,” he said.
“Looking to second quarter,” Shive continued, “current local and national spot pacing trends are similar to our experience in the first quarter of 2009. For full year 2009, retransmission revenues are expected to grow double digits and Internet revenues are expected to be flat to down slightly, which is lower than our previous guidance. In March, we announced several additional cost-saving measures that will affect the remainder of 2009, including the suspension of the company’s 401(k) matching contribution for all employees, a 5 percent salary reduction for employees who are part of the company’s management compensation programs, and a company-wide staff reduction of approximately 150 positions. These cost-saving measures along with others previously implemented are expected to lower full year 2009 combined station and corporate operating costs, excluding spin-off related charges, by at least 11 percent, an improvement from previous guidance. Capital expenditures are not expected to exceed $12 million for the year, down from $25.4 million in 2008.”