Media General 3Q Revs Plummet 18%

Media General, which publishes scores of daily and weekly newspapers and owns 18 TV stations concentrated in the Southeast, reported that total revenues fell from $193 million in the third quarter of 2008 to $158 million in the same quarter in 2009 -- an 18% drop.

In terms of earnings, in the third quarter Media General posted a net income loss of $62.4 million. For the first nine months of the year, it has posted a net income loss of $63.1 million. The company also posted an $84.2 million charge for goodwill and other asset impairment.

Although Media General said it will no longer report results by media category, but rather by geographic market areas, separate figures for its publishing and broadcast operations in the third quarter showed TV down slightly more than newspapers. That's a somewhat surprising result, considering the weakness of newspapers relative to other traditional media in preceding quarters.

Third-quarter publishing revenues at Media General fell from $103.2 million in 2008 to $84.1 million in 2009, a decrease of 18.5%.

The company's broadcast revenues experienced an even bigger drop in percentage terms, from $79.4 million in 2008 to $63.4 million this year -- a decrease of over 20%. Media General's newspaper properties include the Tampa Tribune and Richmond Times-Dispatch, along with 19 smaller dailies and over 200 weeklies.

Digital media revenues were up slightly, from $10.3 million to $10.5 million, an increase of roughly 2%. However, they remained a fairly small proportion of total revenues: 6.6%.

Media General President and CEO Marshall Morton tried to put the best face on the 18% decline -- calling it an improvement over the second quarter's 20% decline -- but as with other newspaper publishers, the immediate future is not looking particularly bright.

Most of the company's expense reductions have been achieved through layoffs and unpaid furloughs. It carries just over $705 million in long-term debt, and interest payments ate up $10.5 million in the third quarter of 2009. In December 2008, the company negotiated new terms with lenders, but may face renewed financial pressure from continuing slumps in the broader economy and print advertising demand.

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