‘Tampa Tribune’ Parent Narrows Q1 Loss as Revenue Decline Moderates

By: Mark Fitzgerald

Newspaper publisher and TV broadcaster Media General Inc. reported a narrower loss for the first quarter of the year as advertising improved strongly in broadcast and the slump at newspapers moderated.

Operating income at the parent of the Tampa Tribune and about a dozen other dailies increased to $8.7 million from a year-ago loss of $11.6 million.

But Media General reported a Q1 net loss of $16.7 million, or 75 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $21.3 million, or 96 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2009. ?Higher interest expense, resulting from the company?s new financing structure that was completed in February 2010, and non-cash income tax expense, eroded the operating income to produce the net loss for the quarter,? the company said.

While other media companies reported continuing declines in revenue, Media General said its total revenue of $158.9 million for the quarter was essentially flat from the year-ago period.

Like its peers, Media General continued to cut expenses in the quarter. Total operating costs fell 12% compared with last year, it said.

Broadcast and digital were the main drivers in the improving quarter, said CEO Marshall N. Morton.

?We also benefited from our lower cost structure,? he said in a statement. ?These factors together produced a turnaround in segment operating profit: income of $19.4 million this year, compared with a loss of $780,000 last year.?

?While newspaper revenues decreased compared to prior year, the declines are now single digits, except in Florida, where the economy is still under significant pressure from unemployment and a very soft housing market,? he added.

Publishing revenue in the first quarter decreased 9.4% from a year ago, an improvement from the 14% decline in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Media General said Increased circulation and printing and distribution revenues partially offset a decrease in local, national and classified revenues.

Digital Media revenue in the first quarter increased 9.8% from the prior year and included a 2% increase in classified revenue. Local digital revenues jumped 23.2%, Media General said.

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