Hearst-Argyle Beats Retrans Estimates

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Hearst-Argyle Television reported retransmission consent revenue of $5.5 million in the fourth quarter, a 20% increase over the prior year and pushing retrans revenue for the entire year to $21.6 million, well above previous estimates.

Hearst-Argyle, which owns 26 television stations and manages three other in several markets across the country, had previously estimated that retrans revenue would be in the $18 million to $20 million range. Even at that estimate, cash for retransmission consent would have been as much as 12% above the 2006 mark of $17.9 million.

Hearst-Argyle is the second broadcasting group to surpass its previous retrans estimates for the year: Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which reported earnings Feb. 6, said it beat its past retrans revenue estimates for the year by more than 20%.  

Retrans revenue could grow even more in 2008 for Hearst-Argyle. On a conference call with analysts Feb. 22 to discuss fourth quarter results, Hearst-Argyle CEO David Barrett said that about two-thirds of the broadcaster’s retrans deals -- including one with Comcast -- expire in the fourth quarter and through 2009.

For the year, Hearst-Argyle reported revenue of $755.7 million, down about 4% from 2006. Net income declined 34% to $64.7 million (69 cents per share) and cash flow declined 19.6% to $231.4 million, reflecting weaker political advertising revenue.

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