“It is the advertiser that comes late into the process that finds they can’t get the time, or if they can, it’s more expensive,” McCorkindale told analysts during the company’s third quarter conference call Tuesday.
He said that sellout rate has already impacted some flight schedules. “Some [advertisers] are just waiting a little bit until the political season is over.” That shift, combined with a strong network scatter market, could keep pressure on local station inventory right through the end of the year.
For the three months ending September 30, Gannett says its net income rose 17% to $265.6 million – its first quarter-to-quarter increase since 2000. In the TV division, revenues rose 24% to $284 million. Gannett’s print stable showed year-over-year gains in ad revenue, operating income and cash flow during the period yet its flagship USA Today lagged. USA Today ‘s ad revenues fell 7% and paid ad pages were 1,017 in Q3 compared to 1,192 a year ago. Year to date, USA Today’s advertising revenue is down 9%. In the TV division, revenues rose 24% to $284 million.
McCorkindale said a national advertising remains “volatile” and said market where manufacturing is less critical to the local economy is where they are doing better. Classified employment ads are still a tough category, he adds. “The numbers still aren’t good, but they are getting better.” The other ad category most impacted is consumer electronics, which he described as “very soft.”
McCorkindale declined to speculate on how 2003 will shape up, limiting his thoughts to the rest of this year – and even then he would only carefully offer, “We are a little cautious, but generally optimistic.” It seems that in this economy, even a solid looking fourth quarter is not enough.