1st-qtr. loss offset by ratings gain for weblet

Paxson Communications posted a pared-down first-quarter loss on Wednesday, aided by revenue gains following improved ratings for its Pax TV weblet.

The West Palm Beach, Fla.-based company, controlled by chairman Lowell “Bud” Paxson and 32% owned by General Electric’s NBC, reported red ink totaling $33.7 million in the latest quarter. That compared with a loss of $54.1 million in the same period last year.

Net revenue climbed 3% to $69.3 million.

“Our first-quarter 2001 financial performance reflects steady improvement in revenues year over year, despite challenging market conditions,” CEO Jeff Sagansky said.

Building with NBC

The weblet hopes to continue building on its strategic relationship with NBC, which has joint sales agreements with 49 Pax stations and runs encore showings of some NBC shows on the fledgling network. In the latest such announcement, Pax will air NBC’s gameshow “Weakest Link” in encore runs beginning June 1.

For Pax’s current programming, Paxson touted an average 25% improvement in season-to-date household ratings in the latest quarter.

Meanwhile, Paxson said he’s keeping a watchful eye on Washington maneuvers over a potentially lucrative broadcast-spectrum issue.

The Paxson topper is leading a movement among TV station groups for a regulatory rule change to allow the early clearing of some analog broadcast spectrum for which broadcasters expect to receive compensation.

“(We) continue to monitor all aspects of the spectrum auction in order to increase shareholder value,” he said.

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