E. W. Scripps Narrows Its Q1 Loss, Newspaper Division Makes a Profit

Newspaper publisher, TV station operator and and syndication company E. W. Scripps (SSP) today reported a first-quarter loss from continuing operations of $900,000, compared with a loss of $206 million in the first quarter of 2009.

Those figures included $2.1 million in after-tax restructuring costs related to the company’s newspaper division and a reorganization of its TV stations. In the first quarter of 2009, the company took $194 million in writedowns of the value of its television stations, charges stemming from the freezing of its pension plan and a restructuring at the newspaper division. Excluding one-time charges, the company made $1.2 million in the first quarter of 2010, vs. a loss of $12.4 million a year ago.

The newspaper division made a segment profit of $16.6 million, compared with $2.9 million a year ago, despite a revenue decline of 7.6% to $113 million. Ad revenue dropped 12% to $75.2 million, and fell across all the following categories: local, classified, national, preprint and online. Circulation revenue, meanwhile, rose 4.9% to $32.1 million.

Employee costs in the newspaper division fell 23%, “due to attrition and the decision to adjust compensation programs early in 2009,” the company said. Newspaper expense fell 19% year over year to $96 million.

Company-wide revenue fell 3.1% year over year to $199 million. Costs also fell, 13%, to $182 million.

“In the newspaper division, print advertising declines are moderating but remain persistent, especially in the classified categories. In response, we are well down the road in redesigning our newspaper operations through Scripps 3.0, a project that puts a strong focus on building and monetizing audiences across multiple platforms,” said president and CEO Rich Boehne.

“In both television and newspapers, exclusive revenue from Internet and other digital platforms is growing rapidly. These new formats for news and information are gaining consumers and advertisers, and are a key part of the reset of our businesses.” Boehne also said that the company carries “essentially no bank debt” and that it would get a cash boost of $175 million from its sale of United Media Licensing, which includes the cast of Charles Schultz-created comic strip “Peanuts.”