WB, ad revs power Tribune Co.

Growth up 4% to $435 million

Big ratings gains for the WB and healthy TV ad spending in April helped diversified publishing and broadcast group Tribune Company to an 18% jump in TV revenues, which offset weaker-than-expected newspaper/classified advertising.

Overall, Tribune on Monday reported consolidated revenue for the period ended April 27 up 4% to $435 million compared to $417 million in 2002. Publishing, led by leading Tribune newspaper franchises like the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, inched up barely 1% in April to $306 million over last year.

Stations acquired

Sales from Broadcasting and Entertainment properties were up a healthier 12% to $129 million, compared to $ 115 million last April, driven in large part by robust TV ad spending in the movies, packaged goods and retail segments. Tribune also acquired three stations — in Indianapolis, St. Louis and Portland — that helped drive sales. On a “same store” basis, TV sales were up 13%.

Some 33% of the company’s cash flow comes from its entertainment businesses, including 26 TV stations (mostly WB affiliates), a radio station, TV production and local cable news nets.

Ready for recovery

CSFB broadcasting analyst Bill Drewry believes Tribune is best positioned among the publishing and TV station group to benefit from the ad recovery in the balance of 2003.

Tribune is expected to be a big buyer if the FCC lifts or modifies the current cross-ownership rules that restrict its ability to own newspapers and TV/radio stations in the same city.

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