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Fisher Stations Fall on Political

SEATTLE: Revenues at the 20 TV stations owned by Fisher Communications fell 23 percent to $29.1 million for the quarter ending Dec. 31, 2009. The decline was attributed to the cyclical shift in political spending, down from $10.9 million in 4Q08 to $1.2 million in 4Q09. Core advertising, meanwhile, was up 4 percent to $23 million; retrans increased 160 percent to $2.4 million. Automotive ad revenues increased 15 percent, while retail fell 13 percent and restaurants fell 14 percent. Internet revenues were flat at $507,000. Broadcast cash flow fell $9.3 million to $5.1 million; margin was 17.7 percent compared to 38.8 percent the year earlier.

For the full year of 2009, TV revenues fell 22 percent to $97.2 million. Political was just $1.9 million compared to $17.4 million. Core revenues were also off for the full year, down 17 percent to $77.9 million. Automotive fell 40 percent; retail was down 23 percent and professional services fell 13 percent. Internet revenues fell 12 percent to $1.7 million. Broadcast cash flow declined $25.5 million to $10.1 million; margin was 10.4 percent compared to 28.7 percent in 2008.

“While our 2009 financial results were severely impacted by the worst economy since World War II and extremely cautious advertising spending, I am very pleased with our stations’ competitive ratings performance and our response to these economic challenges,” said Fisher President and Chief Executive Officer Colleen B. Brown. “In 2009, we aggressively managed our expenses while increasing total revenue share in our radio and TV markets; we expanded newsroom multiplatform synergies between our TV, radio and online businesses; and we launched new digital distribution platforms which allow us to better serve our neighborhoods.

"As we look ahead, we are encouraged by some of the trends we witnessed in the fourth quarter, including an improvement in our core, non-political television advertising. Fisher’s automotive ad spending grew in the quarter for the first time since the recession began, and we are hopeful that this pace will gradually increase throughout the year."

Consolidated 4Q09 revenues for Fisher’s TV, radio and real estate properties were down 19 percent to $38.6 million compared to 4Q08. Net income was $1.1 million, including a pre-tax gain of $2.6 million on the Sprint Nextel BAS relocation, and $1.3 million on insurance reimbursement related to a fire at Fisher Plaza. Fisher posted a net loss in 4Q08 of$47.7 million on an impairment charge of $78.2 million.

For the full fiscal year, Fisher’s consolidated revenues were $133.7 million, a 23 percent decrease from 2008. Net loss was $9.3 million, compared to net income of $44.7 million in 2008. The 2009 net loss included the $2.6 million Sprint-Nextel item, a $3 million pre-tax gain on debt extinguishment, and $2.7 million in Fisher Plaza electrical fire expenses, net of reimbursements. The 2008 net income included a $152.6 million pre-tax gain on the sale of Safeco stock, a $78.2 million pre-tax impairment charge, and a $5 million pre-tax charge related to Fisher’s change in national representation firms.

Fisher (NASDAQ: FSCI) ended 2009 with cash and equivalents of $43.9 million versus $31.8 million the year earlier. Long-term debt was $122 million versus $150 million. Shares of Fisher were down 9 percent year-to-date at $14.73 in Monday morning trading.

More on Fisher:
February 2, 2010: “Fisher Invests $1.5 Million in Hyperlocal Partner”
Fisher Communications has invested $1.5 million in the company that helped launch its hyperlocal initiative, DataSphere Technologies of Bellevue, Wash

November 5, 2009: “Fisher TV Revenues Fall 8 Percent”
The decline was attributable to lower local, national, and political advertising at a majority of stations.

August 6, 2009Fisher Falls on Ad Slump
Fisher TV stations showed the effects of an off-election year, in addition to the industrywide slump in advertising.

June 10, 2009:“Fisher Stations Restored to Dish Network”
Fisher Communications are back on the Dish Network line-up, the two companies said this week.

April 29, 2009: “Fisher Falls on Politics and Cars”
Retransmission helped the20 Fisher Communications TV stations during the first quarter of 2009, but it couldn’t make up for the implosion of the automobile sector.

April 21, 2009: “Fisher Signs Up for Interactivity”
Fisher Communications has signed a station group agreement with Backchannelmedia to deploy its opt-in Clickable TV technology.

April 10, 2009: “Firms Advise Fisher Shareholders to Block Gamco Gambit”
Fisher Communication said today its advisers have recommended a “no” vote on a proposal from an institutional investor wanting to limit Fisher’s ability to buy assets.