TV Boosts Scripps 4Q10

CINCINNATTI: The 10 TV stations belonging to the E.W. Scripps hit their projected fourth-quarter mark, posting revenues up 37 percent over the previous year period. The TV division’s segment profit more than doubled to $37.3 million, the division's highest segment profit figure since the fourth quarter of 2006.

Scripps predicted a revenue rise of between 35 and 40 percent in early December. The stations generated $101 million in revenues for 4Q10, also up 8 percent over the previous presidential cycle in 2008. Local rose 1.2 percent to $43.3 million; national was up 5.1 percent to $23.4 million. Political was $28.1 million, compared with $2.9 million in the 2009 quarter.

E.W. Scripps said the increase in political traffic reduced inventory for regular advertisers through Nov. 2, yet strong automotive sales still pushed overall revenues higher. Automotive was up 31 percent compared to 4Q09.

During the fourth quarter, Scripps announced a new five-year affiliation agreement for six of its stations with ABC, and a five-year extension with NBC for three. Both deals ended network affiliate payments to the stations and marked the start of reverse compensation by which the stations pay the networks a licensing fee. As a results, network compensation in the quarter was less than $100,000, compared with $1.5 million the year before in 4Q.

Revenue from retransmission consent agreements was $3 million, a year-over-year increase of 18 percent, and digital revenue increased 39 percent to $2.3 million.

Expenses for the TV station group increased year over year by 7.5 percent to $63.7 million in the fourth quarter. Contributing to the expense increase were programming costs associated with the new ABC affiliation agreement and an increase in employee costs, which rose 7.4 percent due to the restoration of performance bonuses.

E.W. Scripps reported consolidated revenues of $220 million, up 12 percent from the year-earlier quarter. Income from continuing operations, net of tax, was $23.7 million, or 37 cents per share, in the 2010 quarter, compared with income from continuing operations, net of tax, of $12.3 million, or 19 cents per share, in the 2009 quarter.

For the full year, the company reported consolidated net income of $131 million, or $2.04 a share, compared to a net loss of $210 million, or $3.89 a share, in 2009.

First-quarter TV revenues are expected to grow in the low single digits, in part due to the absence of the Olympics.

Shares of E.W. Scripps (NYSE: SSP) traded today at above $9.50, after dipping last week to less than $9. The stock is down about 7 percent year-to-date.

-- Deborah D. McAdams