The shares closed 11% lower at $12.96 after the Cincinnati-based company reported a loss of a penny a share compared with earning 6 cents a share in the year-earlier quarter. SSP had been down as much as 17.2% earlier in the session.
The stock fell even though Scripps' quarterly revenue rose to $337.5 million from $283.4 million a year earlier. That beat the $335 million that analysts surveyed by FactSet had expected, while the SSP's loss came in in line with consensus estimates.
Despite the red ink, company President and CEO Adam Symson emphasized what he called Scripps' "clearly articulated M&A strategy." He noted that recent and pending acquisitions mean that the company will soon have TV stations in 26 of the top 50 U.S. markets. All told, Scripps will own 60 stations in 42 markets, reaching 31% of U.S. households with TVs.
Symson also said that "our highest priority is now on paying down debt -- which we expect to be greatly aided by 2020 cash flow -- to quickly return to our more typical historical levels of company leverage.
Besides owning TV stations, Scripps operates national broadcast networks like Court TV and Bounce TV, new-media companies Newsy and Stitcher and has run the famous annual Scripps National Spelling Bee since 1925.