Media General Posts Q1 Loss as TV Revenue Slides

TV-station and newspaper conglomerate Media General reported a wider loss for the first quarter Thursday as an influx of political-year TV advertising couldn’t offset the impact of the soft general economy.

The Richmond, Va.-based company incurred a net loss of $20.3 million, or 91 cents per diluted share, which included 47 cents per share related to plans to sell five television stations. That compares to a $6.5 million loss and red ink of 27 cents per share a year ago. Revenue slid 13% to $62.8 million mainly due to newspaper-sector woes.

Broadcast-segment revenue fell 1.2%, and the decline would have been worse without an influx of political advertising. Local ad sales declined 4.4% due to “lower spending in the furniture-store, fast-food and automotive categories [that] was partially offset by higher health-care advertising,” the company said. National TV ad revenue plunged 14.6%, with automotive and entertainment off while drug stores and fast food increased.

Those declines were partly offset by $4 million in political ads compared with $340,000 a year ago, in what was a non-election year.

Declines in TV-station revenue seems to be an emerging theme for the quarter ended March 31, as NBC Universal experienced an 11% decline in local TV ad revenue when its parent, General Electric, reported earnings last week.