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Media General Broadcast Revenue Down 15%

Media General reported fourth quarter 2011 broadcast revenue of $77.9 million, down 15% from what it posted in the fourth quarter of the previous year. Overall operating income was $27.7 million, down from $36.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2010. Total revenues in the fourth quarter, $168 million, were 11.7% lower than the prior year.

"This decrease was mostly due to an expected and significant decrease in political revenues in an off-election year," said Media General in a statement. Political revenues in the fourth quarter of 2010 were $24 million, compared with $3.6 million in the most recent fourth.

Media General decreased total operating costs by 8.6%.

Marshall N. Morton, president and CEO, saw some positive developments in the fourth quarter. "Automotive advertising at our broadcast television stations increased 14% from the prior year," he said. "Excluding political revenues, total broadcast revenues increased nearly 9%. In addition, the decline in print revenues moderated to 6.6%, compared with a 9.1% decrease in the third quarter of 2011."

Media General's Websites generated $8.3 million in revenues, the second highest ever for the company.

Political spending, and some big-tent events on NBC, will help Media General in the current and subsequent quarters. "As we start the new year, we have generated strong political revenues from the Republican primaries in South Carolina and Florida, and other campaign and issues spending is starting to ramp up," said Morton. "We have booked strong advance sales for the Super Bowl on our eight NBC stations. As this major election year unfolds, we expect to generate at-or-above-market shares of political revenues at our highly ranked television stations. Our NBC stations also will benefit from Summer Olympics advertising."