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Hearst Revenues Yield to Stalled Automotive Sector

Third quarter revenues for Hearst-Argyle Television were flat compared to a year ago at $176.2 million, as automotive ad spending dropped 11.5 percent ($16 million).

Earnings were 12 cents per share, up from 10 cents in Q3 2007 and down from 18 cents in 2006, the last election year.

“Like so many others, we have experienced cancellations and reductions in core ad spending in third quarter and for the full year, which are difficult to overcome,” said President and CEO David Barrett. “The ongoing strength and resiliency of our business model remains evident in the still impressive EBITDA margins we've delivered through an extraordinarily difficult period, and in the sizeable free cash flow we've generated during the quarter and for the year-to-date.”

Political revenues jumped $16.7 million increase in net political revenue to $23.7 million.

The soft ad market also led to a drop in net digital revenue of 6 percent from Q3 2007, to $4.9 million. That drop comes despite vastly increased numbers of monthly page views (17 percent) and video streams (62 percent). HTV also bolstered content with more than 1,200 individual program elements related to the Beijing Olympics and brought expanded coverage of the Democratic and Republican conventions political online with Flash-based video and interactive features.

"While we are not pleased with this quarter's revenue performance, the double-digit traffic results we continue to enjoy on digital platforms validate our efforts to improve the news coverage and functionality of our sites,” said Senior Vice President of Digital Media Roger Keating. “We're becoming an even bigger part of our viewers' daily media consumption, and this will hasten our revenue recovery as market conditions improve." Also in the quarter, the company invested $8.6 million in the transition to digital, HD news production in its largest, and development of digital media.HTV stock was trading Thursday (Oct. 30) at about $16 a share, about two-thirds its highest point in September.

HTV owns 26 stations and manages another three (plus two radio stations) owned by Hearst Corp.