Scripps Sees 15% Growth In 2003

By: Matthew Mogul, AP Business Writer

(AP) E.W. Scripps Co. expects revenue to rise 15% in 2003 because of strong television advertising and income from affiliate fees, the company’s chief executive told analysts Monday. The media conglomerate is also looking to launch new Hispanic language channels and offer more pay-per-view products via its growing cable channel network.

Although no final figures for 2002 were provided, CEO Ken Lowe told analysts at the Credit Suisse First Boston Media Week conference that revenue for the first nine months of the year was up 17% from the same period a year earlier, and cash flow was up 38% despite the difficult advertising climate.

The acquisition of the Shop at Home Network this past October will reduce consolidated income from its core business in 2003 by 10 to 15 cents a share, according to Joe NeCastro, the company’s chief financial officer. The purchase, along with the rollout of the Fine Living cable channel in March, will expand 2003 operational losses to between $40 million and $45 million, up from the $37 million forecast for this year, he added.

Newspaper ad revenue, excluding its Denver-based Rocky Mountain News, should rise 4% to 6% from 2002. The Denver paper is unusual among Scripps’ holdings because it has a joint operating agreement with The Denver Post.

Newsprint costs are also expected to rise 5% to 10% next year.

Employee costs will likely rise 4% to 6% next year because of rising health care expenses and an increase in pension costs to $22 million from $13 million this year. In addition, the company expects to spend $75 million shoring up the pension fund, its first such contribution since 1996.

Scripps operates 21 daily newspapers, 10 broadcast TV stations, and four cable television channels: Home & Garden Television, Food Network, Do It Yourself Network, and Fine Living. It also operates Scripps Howard News Service; United Media, which licenses and syndicates the “Peanuts” and “Dilbert” comic strips; and 31 Web sites.

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