Gannett reported first quarter broadcast revenues of $382.3 million, up nearly 100% from the same quarter a year before, thanks primarily to the acquisition of the Belo station group. Winter Olympics advertising, political spending and retransmission fee growth also boosted performance in the quarter.
Gannett closed on its Belo acquisition in December.
"This was a terrific first quarter for Gannett, in which the fundamental changes we've been making to our business meaningfully impacted our top and bottom lines,” said Gracia Martore (pictured), president and CEO of Gannett. “An outstanding performance by our new broadcast stations fueled double-digit increases in both revenue and profitability in our Broadcast Segment and contributed to total company pro forma revenue growth and a robust level of free cash flow in the first quarter. Our Broadcast group achieved exceptional ratings, particularly throughout the Sochi Winter Games as Gannett stations took the top two spots in primetime and in every Olympic day-part among major market NBC stations.”
Gannett’s publishing and digital segments also performed well, said Martore.
Operating revenues for the company were $1.4 billion in the quarter, an increase of 13.4% from the first quarter in 2013. Digital revenue was up 2.8% and publishing segment revenue declined 3.3% due in part “to the effect of extreme winter weather on advertising demand and circulation revenue,” said Gannett. Publishing ad revenue was down 4.8%.
Taking out the Belo factor, Gannett station revenue climbed 2.8%. Broadcast core revenue was up 6.5% in the quarter.
"With greater scale and new innovative product offerings, we've successfully deepened our connections with customers across all platforms and positioned Gannett to grow and thrive in the digital age,” said Martore. “This strategy, combined with our strong and flexible balance sheet, substantial and growing free cash flow and the ongoing, successful integration of Belo make this a promising year ahead for our company."
Gannett forecasts second quarter revenue percentage to be up in the nineties, thanks again to Belo, compared to the second quarter of 2013. On a pro forma basis, the percentage increase in total television revenues is projected to be up in the mid-teens.
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.