Slow ad sales compound Sinclair loss

B'caster posts $36.6 mil loss

HOLLYWOOD — Slackened ad sales shaped a deepened first-quarter loss at TV station group Sinclair Broadcasting.

The Baltimore-based broadcaster Thursday posted a loss of $36.6 million in the latest quarter. That compared to red ink of $1.8 million in the same period last year.

Revenue dropped 6% to $165.6 million. Broadcast cash flow declined 24% to $54 million.

“Despite a difficult national advertising and economic environment in the first quarter, we experienced better-than-expected performance in our local markets, as well as from our WB, Fox and UPN affiliates,” executive veep and chief financial officer David Amy said.

Political fallout

Local ad sales were off less than 3%, compared with a more than 17% drop in national advertising, excluding political ads, Amy said. Sinclair’s share of the local television ad market grew to almost 19% from less than 18%, excluding political advertising.

The company received only $200,000 in political ad revenue in the quarter. That compared to $2.8 million in the year-ago period, marked by the runup to the U.S. presidential elections.

In a one-time restructuring cost, Sinclair absorbed a $2.4 million charge in the latest quarter related to 186 job cuts.

Sinclair owns or operates 62 television stations in 40 markets. Properties include affils of the six top broadcast networks except Pax.

The company also operates a Sinclair Ventures subsidiary that holds equity interests in Internet companies. Sinclair saw a $68 million loss on all equity investments in the quarter, compared with a $535 million loss on investments a year ago.

Sinclair posted its results after the close of market trading. The stock was up 25¢ at $25.75.