Scripps 2Q Newspaper Ad Revenue Falls 15%

By: Mark Fitzgerald

E.W. Scripps Co. reported Thursday that its total newspaper revenue for the second quarter fell 13% to $144, fueled by a 15% drop in ad revenue at papers managed solely by the Cincinnati-based publisher.

E.W. Scripps earlier this month spun off its lifestyle cable networks and online businesses into a new publicly traded company called Scripps Networks Interactive. The companies will begin reporting separate results in the third quarter of this year.

Scripps said classified newspaper advertising revenue fell 21% to $38.5 million. In a conference call, the head of its newspaper segment, Mark Contrares said real estate classified was down 39%, and help-wanted was down 29%.

“Local” advertising was down 13% to $30.8 million, Scripps said, with national down 20% to $6.7 million

Preprint and “other” ad revenue fell 7.9% to $35.9 million.

Online revenue, which Scripps includes in the preprint and other category, was $9.9 million, down 8.0% from the second quarter of 2007 on weakness in classified advertising categories.

Circulation revenue was $28.0 million, down 5.4%.

Profit at newspapers managed solely by Scripps fell to $19.1 million from $29.3 million in the year-ago quarter.

Scripps said its loss from its joint operating agreement (JOA) in Denver and newspaper partnerships increased to $2.7 million from a profit of $900,000 a year ago.

In a conference call, E.W. Scripps CFO Tim Stautberg said the company expects to have continuing losses from its JOA and partnerships in the third quarter.

E.W. Scripps had net debt of $51 million, he added.

Asked if Scripps will cut its dividend in the face of continuing weakness, Stautberg said its target is a payout of 50% of free cashflow. The company had anticipated a 70 cent- to 80 cent-per-share dividend, he said.

Contreras said Scripps anticipates its performance in the third quarter will be similar to Q2, while there will be a “very slight” improvement in the fourth quarter.

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