Fisher Communications reported television revenue of $20.3 million, a 27% decrease over the $27.9 million generated in the same quarter in 2008. The decline was attributable to "lower local, national, and political advertising revenue at a majority of our stations, partially offset by a 39% increase in retransmission revenue and 0.6% revenue growth at our Univision stations," Fisher said in a statement.
Among key advertising segments, automotive was down 62% and retail slipped 34% in the quarter.
Television broadcast cash flow was $252,000 in the quarter, down from $6.7 million in the same quarter last year. Television operating expenses dropped 5.9% in the quarter.
Fisher cited retransmission consent fees as one positive spot, and said the first quarter results don't reflect around $1 million in retrans fees whose contracts are "awaiting final execution." Fisher called out Dish Network for the parties' retrans clash, which has seen the Fisher signal go dark for Dish subscribers in Fisher's seven markets since December.
The company said: "DISH's CEO, Charlie Ergen, has repeatedly vetoed agreements in principal negotiated and agreed upon by Fisher and DISH representatives. The Company believes DISH is unwilling to negotiate a final contract unless Fisher drops its pending lawsuit against DISH."
Fisher President/CEO Colleen B. Brown said the 13 Fisher stations are making the best of it amidst deplorable economic conditions. "During the first quarter, our financial performance continued to be hampered by the negative macro-economic conditions that have been affecting the entire broadcast industry since the middle of last year," she said. "The worsening automotive, financial and credit crises combined with the ongoing decline in consumer spending has resulted in advertisers significantly curtailing their spending. Fisher has taken a number of proactive steps to mitigate the impact of the downturn, but our results are clearly being impacted by a weak economy and an even weaker environment for consumer advertising.
"Despite this softness, our stations continue to take market share where ad dollars are being spent, which is a reflection of our commitment to delivering quality content that benefits our viewers, listeners, advertisers and business partners," she continued.
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.
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