LIN Credits Auto With Fueling Ad Revs

Vincent-SaduskyWhile the ad market has moved at a modest pace for the LIN station group this year the company expressed optimism Wednesday that an accelerating auto category will help ignite revenues in the months ahead.

“It’s a bit of a slow start,” said CEO Vincent Sadusky on an earnings call.

The group, with 32 stations in markets stretching from Indianapolis to Terre Haute, Ind., said ad dollars in the first quarter are running about 4% ahead of the same period last year. The auto category is up 13%, while spending by local dealers is up a higher rate (that was flat in the 2011 fourth quarter).

But other core categories have been flat-to-slightly down, though home improvement, perhaps because of a mild winter, has had a bump.



The robust auto business is a marked change from early last year when natural disasters led to Japanese marketers curtailing spending. Yet spending improved throughout 2011.

“We believe the [auto] industry has finally returned to a more normalized spending pattern,” said Scott Blumenthal, a LIN executive vice president.

While not commenting directly on LIN’s strategy, CEO Sadusky said he expects the M&A market for stations to heat up in 2012 with the credit markets improving and new revenue streams, namely retrans consent dollars, emerging in the industry. Separately, LIN plans to continue investing in companies, such as Nami Media, in the new media space to diversify its holdings.

In the fourth quarter, when stripping out political dollars, company-wide revenues were up 11% to $108.5 million, though national ad dollars were down slightly. Operating income was down 32% to $29.8 million.

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