NYT Co. Narrows Q3 Loss, But Ad Slump Continues

By: Mark Fitzgerald The New York Times Co. reported a shrunken third-quarter loss Thursday on ad revenue that remains stubbornly in decline.

For the third quarter, the Times Co. loss was $35.6 million, or 25 cents a share. That's down considerably from a year ago, when it reported a loss of $106.3 million, or 74 cents a share, but much of that was the result of a $160 million non-cash write-down on the value of The Boston Globe and its other New England newspapers.

Excluding severance and other charges, the Times Co. said it turned a profit of 16 cents a share, up from 5 cents a share a year ago.

Like other newspaper publishers, the Times Co. reported the results of deep cuts in expenses, with operating costs down 21.6% from a year ago. By the end of 2009, the Times Co. expects to wring nearly a half-billion dollars -- $475 million -- from its operating costs.

Times Co. President and CEO Janet Robinson joined the ranks of other newspaper executives reporting third-quarter results in saying there are "encouraging signs of improvement in the overall economy" and in advertising.

"Early in the fourth quarter, print advertising trends, in comparison to the third quarter, have improved modestly, while digital advertising trends are improving more significantly," Robinson said.

Nevertheless, she said, "visibility remains limited for advertising in the fourth quarter."

In the third quarter, ad revenue fell 26.9%, pushing down overall revenue to $570.6 million, a decline of 16.9% from a year ago. The ad revenue drop is an improvement over the 30% decline in the second quarter of 2009, but the year-ago comparisons are getting easier.

In its newspaper publishing unit News Media Group, total revenue fell 18% as ad revenue swooned 29.6%.

Print newspaper advertising was down 31.2%, and online advertising declined 18.5%.

Poor classified results were behind those numbers. Newspaper classified dropped 38.3% on big declines in all major categories: automotive, down 32.1%, real estate, down 44.1% and help-wanted, down 52.5%.

Newspaper retail advertising revenue was off 25.1% and national down 28.5%.

Circulation revenue increased 6.7% in the quarter on price increases at the flagship New York Times and Boston Globe.

The Times Co. also said its debt has been reduced by $140 million from the end of last year.

Robinson noted that earlier this month, the Times Co. completed the sale of WQXR-FM, its classical radio station in New York City, for gross proceeds of $45 million, which were used to pay down debt.

She said the company is "moving ahead" with the potential sale of its stake in New England Sports Ventures, which includes the Boston Red Sox baseball team and the cable channel New England Sports Network.

From the Times' release:

?Our third-quarter results reflect the positive benefits of the sustained actions we have been aggressively pursuing to reposition our businesses for the evolving future of the media industry,? said Janet Robinson, president and CEO.

?Principal among those actions is:

* Continuing to secure strong performance on costs;
* Growing our circulation revenues by 6.7 percent, which demonstrates continuing steady demand for our products, as well as the high value those products command even as the content marketplace becomes increasingly digital;
* Restructuring debt with a focus on long-term stability; and
* Managing and rebalancing our asset portfolio to strengthen our core operations.

?Strong cost control remained a leading contributor to improved operating performance in the quarter. We continued to aggressively reduce our expenses, and the actions we have taken over the past quarters are evidenced in an approximately 22 percent decline in operating costs. With our many initiatives to operate more efficiently and effectively across the Company, we expect our cost performance to remain strong and we are on course to achieve approximately $475 million in savings this year.

?Looking ahead, visibility remains limited for advertising in the fourth quarter. But as is the case across the media sector, we have seen encouraging signs of improvement in the overall economy and in discussions with our advertisers. Early in the fourth quarter, print advertising trends, in comparison to the third quarter, have improved modestly, while digital advertising trends are improving more significantly.

?Earlier this month, we completed the sale of WQXR-FM, our New York City classical radio station, for gross proceeds of $45 million. The proceeds from this transaction were used to further reduce our outstanding debt balance. We are also moving ahead with the potential sale of our interest in New England Sports Ventures, which includes the Boston Red Sox and New England Sports Network, a highly rated regional cable channel.

?As we continue to review and rebalance our portfolio, we are also encouraged by the continued strong performance of the About Group, whose third-quarter operating profit rose 27.3 percent to $13.7 million.?


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