SPELLING UP EARLY

Strong perf by TV unit lifts back into black

NEW YORK — Spelling Entertainment Inc. moved into the black in the first quarter, reporting a profit of $728,000 compared with a loss of $3.7 million a year ago, driven by a strong performance from the television business.

Spelling, 75% owned by Viacom Inc., said “higher network license fees” for established series such as “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Melrose Place” helped lift the TV division’s revenue 32% to $137.45 million and double earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (cash flow) to $16.8 million.

Vid boost

The feature film operations, which include Spelling Films and Republic Entertainment, generated cash flow of $75,000 in the quarter, compared with a loss of $600,000 a year earlier. Film division revenues rose 19% to $26 million, due to the homevideo performances of releases such as “Bound” and “Killer: Journal of Murder.”

Stake for sale

Spelling has decided to sell its majority stake in Virgin Interactive Entertainment in a public stock offering later this year, so Virgin’s losses are not included in the first-quarter results (or the 1996 comparative numbers). Spelling did not even report what Virgin’s losses were in the quarter, as it set aside a reserve for the company’s 1997 losses when it wrote off its investment in the company by $255.2 million in the fourth quarter of last year. The size of the reserve devoted to operating losses was not disclosed.

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