Belo reports 4Q profit, says ad trends improved

February 4, 2010

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DALLAS—TV station operator Belo Corp. reported a profit for the fourth quarter of last year on Thursday and said advertising trends have improved.

CEO Dunia Shive said the company's nearly 14 percent revenue decline in the last three months of the year was almost entirely because there were fewer political campaigns buying commercial time.

She said in a statement that spot revenue -- the spending on commercials that customers do closer to air time rather than before the TV season begins -- was up more than 9 percent in January. That compares with a 16.4 percent decline in the fourth quarter.

The local TV industry had one of its worst years in memory in 2009 as budgets for marketing shrank. Making matters worse, the auto companies that ordinarily spend the most on TV commercials of any other sector were hard hit by the recession and closed thousands of local dealerships. And unlike the same quarter last year, there was little spending on commercials related to elections.

Like others in the TV industry, Belo said things have started to turn improve.

The company noted that its five CBS affiliates will benefit from advertising during the Super Bowl this quarter, while its four NBC stations will get a boost during the Olympics.

The company, which owns 20 TV stations, said it earned $22 million, or 21 cents a share, in the last three months of 2009. A year ago, it lost $485 million, or $4.74 per share, largely because of one-time charges related to the declining value of its asset and the spin off of A.H. Belo, the company's newspaper business.

Revenue dropped 13.8 percent to $171.3 million from $198.8 million.

For the full year, the company lost $109 million, or $1.06 per share, compared with $459 million, or $4.50 per share, the previous year. Revenue fell to $590 million from $733 million.

The company's stock slipped 20 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $6.75 in midday trading.