Media General: Big Drop In Broadcast Revs, Digital Up

Marshall Morton of Media General

TV stations and media business group Media General witnessed improved profits in its fourth quarter. Net income was up $27.4 million versus a net loss of $85.5 million. But much of the boost came from sharp decreases in operating expenses -- some 22% -- in the fourth quarter. The company cut its overall staff by 900 employees versus the same period a year ago.

But revenues for each of the companies' two major businesses saw rollbacks. Broadcast revenues in the fourth quarter declined 17% -- entirely due to lower political revenues in the current period.

Publishing revenues in the fourth quarter decreased 14% from the prior year. The company said this was an improvement from an 18.5% decline in the third quarter of 2009. Media General said that while there were more declines in local, national and classified revenues, there were higher circulation revenues and higher printing and distribution revenues.



A smaller but growing business, digital media has revenues improving 11% from the prior year. Local and national digital revenues gained 28% and 20%, respectively, from 2008. Media General said its partnership with Yahoo benefited, with a 43% increase in the fourth quarter. Its local headlines are on Yahoo pages, which drive their audience to Media General's Web sites.

"Our lower cost base going into 2010 provides us with significant flexibility," said Marshall N. Morton, president and chief executive officer for Media General. "In 2010, we will benefit from an improving economy, revenues from the Winter Olympics on our eight NBC stations, and political revenues, which we estimate will be approximately $42 million across all our markets for the year."

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