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TV4 Sweden revs up 10%

Results suggest ad market is stabilizing

AMSTERDAM — TV4 Sweden provided fresh evidence that the European advertising market is warming up: the Nordic territory’s largest commercial channel reported fourth quarter gross revenues up 10% to 688 million kroner ($81 million) on Monday.

Gross revs for 2002 rose 4% to $268 million. Profits jumped from a miserable $2.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2001 to $11.3 million in the same quarter last year. But they fell from $27.6 million in 2001 to a weak $14.4 million for the full year 2002 due to extraordinary write-offs related to TV4’s hefty concession fee.

The numbers “are at a low level,” said TV4 managing director Jan Scherman, “but it does suggest that the advertising market has stabilized.”

New TV ad regs which allowed TV4 to run commercial breaks in the middle of programs, as well as on either side, kicked up ratings and may have contributed to the more positive numbers. The commercials were shorter and “viewers kept watching to a greater extent,” the earnings report indicated.

The report is good news for the Bonnier Group, the largest shareholder in TV4 Sweden, which is also expecting a mid-week report from its Finnish front. Bonnier owns the largest stake in Alma Media, owner of Finland’s largest commercial TV outfit MTV3.

TV4 Sweden also unveiled new details on TV plus, a channel it will launch March 9 with a program spread of entertainment and leisure, gaming and sports. TV4 estimated the new channel which is expected to reach half of Swedish households, will break even in its second year.

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