Updated with afternoon stock movements.
) -- Declining ad revenue at newspaper chain
accelerated in the second quarter, but that didn't stop its chief executive from echoing the hopeful statements made by his media-executive peers all through this earnings season.
Les Moonves to the
New York Times'
Janet Robinson, media CEOs have been using the press releases that accompany corporate quarterly reports to proclaim that signs of an ad recovery do indeed exist in the world.
For now, however, investors need to take those chieftains at their word, as any evidence for a recovery remains thin.
In Monday morning trading, investors appeared to do just that. Scripps shares were moving at $7.00, up $1.54, or more than 28%, on heavy volume.
The Cincinnati-based publisher, which owns the
Naples (Fla.) Daily News
and 14 other small local dailies, said newspaper ad revenue fell 29% from a year ago to $79.4 million in the second quarter. That's faster (though just slightly) than the 28% year-over-year drop registered in the first period of 2009.
Television revenue, meanwhile, fell 24% to $61 million.
But Scripps CEO Rich Boehne made the now-familiar media-exec commentary on what looks to be, from his view, a developing rebound. "In the near term, we are seeing some slight improvement in the flow of advertising in our markets," he said, "particularly at the television stations, which have increased their revenue projections -- albeit very modestly -- during each of the past seven weeks."
Like the country's other local-newspaper chains, Scripps is more exposed to the cratering classified-ad business than, say, the
New York Times
. Classified revenue tumbled 39% to $24 million in the quarter -- though in some ways it's surprising that people are still buying print classified ads at all.
Total revenue fell 23% to $194 million.
Scripps did manage to eke out a profit and thus handily surpass Wall Street's estimates for its second-quarter bottom line. The company posted earnings of $2.3 million, or 4 cents share, while analysts were anticipating a loss of 11 cents a share.
A year ago, the company recorded a huge loss -- $608 million, or $11.20 a share -- mostly because of a non-cash charge on the order of a half billion dollars to write down the value of its newspaper assets.
Investors also could have been reacting Monday to Scripps' announcement that it struck a deal with its bankers to amend the terms on a credit revolver, which gives the company "more room to maneuver" in paying down debt that comes due in the next few years, Scripps' finance chief, Tim Stautberg, said in the earnings release.
-- Reported by Scott Eden in New York
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