Scripps Newspapers Up 1.2% on Better Ad Numbers

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By: E&P Staff

Updated at 3 p.m. ET

Despite continued softness in local retail and help-wanted advertising, as well as higher newsprint costs, The E.W. Scripps Co. Thursday reported that revenues for its newspaper division were up slightly in the fourth quarter.

Scripps reported $182 million in fourth-quarter revenues, a 1.2% gain from the comparable period in 2002. Of that, advertising revenue accounted for $144 million, a 1.8% bump. While total ad figures were up, local retail fell 3.8%, to $46.4 million. That was offset, however, by gains in classified (up 2.2% to $50.4 million), national (10%, $11 million) and preprint and other advertising (6.6%, $36.6 million).

The company reported profits of $77 million in the newspaper group, up 3% from the year-ago period. Company-wide, earnings rose 34%, powered by strong performance in its cable TV group.

Circulation revenues dipped 2.4%, to $33.9 million, in the period. And newsprint costs increased 9%.

“In our newspaper division, we saw some improvement, but results were held back once again by persistent weakness in local retail and help-wanted advertising,” said Kenneth W. Lowe, president and CEO at Scripps. “Our newspapers did an admirable job making up for lost department store revenue and positioning themselves to take full advantage of economic recovery, which appears to be underway.”

For the full year, revenues at Scripps newspapers increased 1.4%, to $692 million. As for the current quarter, the company projects ad revenues for its papers will rise 3%-5% compared to the first quarter of 2003.

Scripps is a highly diversified media company with holdings in publishing, broadcast television stations, national cable TV networks and interactive properties. It publishes 21 daily newspapers, including the Rocky Mountain News (Click for QuikCap) in Denver and The Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel (Click for QuikCap).

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