ABC O&O Revs Expected To Plummet 30%
A report by the Wall Street firm predicted that revenues could be down 30% in the January-March period, likely driven by declines in spending by the large U.S. automakers. The drop would place revenue at $151 million for the quarter.
Furthermore, UBS offered no sign that the fortunes of the O&Os will turn around in 2009, projecting drops of at least 25% in each of the next two quarters. The stations include outlets in the country's four largest markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia.
A modest portion of the decline in this year's January-March quarter could be attributed to a loss in political dollars. Stations in Philadelphia, Houston and Toledo are in states that had expensive primary battles last year between Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
The ABC network has also seen prime-time "live-only" 18-to-49 ratings drop 7% this season, which can also drag down station dollars. (Local stations mostly use "live-only" program ratings as currency.)
Disney reports earnings on May 5.
The UBS report also predicted that it will report 12% drops in revenues at both the ABC network and ESPN for the January-March period. The ESPN figure would be a larger drop than what Disney reported for the last three months of 2008, when CFO Tom Staggs said sales fell by high-single-digit percentages.
UBS projects that revenue at the ABC network will fall 12% to $869 million.
Operating income will not be as affected at ESPN, since the broadcasting operations has a second revenue stream from affiliate fees, UBS wrote.