H-A executives said on a conference call to discuss third-quarter results Thursday that the company was hurt considerably by the downturn in New England, Florida and California.
Florida and California have been particularly affected by the mortgage crisis. H-A indicated that its duopolies in Orlando (NBC-CW) and Sacramento (NBC-MyNetworkTV) have been impacted. It also has the ABC affiliate in Boston.
Total third-quarter revenue came in at $176.2 million, about equal to a year ago. Stripping out a bump from political dollars, ad sales were down 11.5% to $129.5 million. The auto category, the company's largest, was down about 20%.
The ad economy was so difficult to navigate that H-A's digital revenues were down 6%. Station groups have been operating from a low base on digital revenues as they look to build up that revenue stream, but growth rates have generally been strong.
Nonetheless, Barrett said: "In the good times, we have to remind ourselves that things are temporary and in bad times as well. There will be a recovery."
H-A did benefit from ad spending by the presidential candidates in potential swing states New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania. H-A operates 29 stations from coast to coast, including 13 affiliated with ABC and 10 with NBC.