The 58-TV-station group saw net broadcast revenues from continuing operations decrease 18.4% to $131.3 million in the first quarter. That means a $106.7 million net loss in the first quarter of 2009 reporting period, from a $46.2 million first-quarter 2008 net profit. Total revenues declined to $154.7 million from $186.7 million in the comparable period before.
One major cause: Sinclair took a $130.1 million non-cash charge related to the impairment of goodwill and other intangible assets. The station group also suffered massive drops in TV stations' advertising sales.
Local ad revenues fell 18.3% in the first quarter of 2009, while national spot advertising revenues fell further: 31.3%. Advertising spending was down in the typical areas for TV stations recently -- automotive, services, movies, fast food and pharmacy.
Where automotive had been the station group's biggest advertising category -- and generally that of all TV stations -- Sinclair now says "services" advertising is its biggest category, at 16.7% of all business. That category was down 19.2% during the period.
Automotive, now its second-largest category -- 13.7% of all Sinclair's business -- was down 46.3% in the quarter.
Sinclair said advertising sales were off the most at its Fox affiliate stations, down 25.1%. Next-worst was ABC at 24.8%; CW at 21.7%; and NBC at 18.4%. The best-performing station network group was CBS, down 12.3%, with MyNetworkTV off 15.9%.
Revenue from retransmission consent agreements was at $21.1 million in the first quarter of 2009, as compared to $19.6 million in the first quarter of 2008.
David Smith, president and CEO of Sinclair, says he expects similar results in the coming sales periods, with second-quarter 2009 station net broadcast revenues to be down approximately high-teen percentages.