TWO MEDIA COMPANIES REPORT SLUMPING FIRST QUARTERS

Newspaper Operations for Washington Post, Tribune Cos. Take Hits

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Two media companies reported continued slumping earnings in their first-quarter results.

Washington Post Co. reported lower earnings due to weakness in its print operations that were only partly offset by better results in broadcast and cable television. The company posted an 88% drop in first-quarter net income to $23.7 million, from $199.1 million in 2001; excluding several one-time items in both years, net income increased to $26 million from $21.8 million.

Declines at 'Post,' 'Newsweek'
Newspaper and magazine revenues dropped 8% and 10%, respectively, due to a 14% decline in ad revenue at the company's flagship newspaper, The Washington Post, and a 15% decline at news magazine Newsweek.

Broadcast and cable

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TV revenues rose 2% and 14%, respectively, thanks to a rollout of new cable services and the effects of Olympic-related advertising on the company's NBC affiliate stations.

First-quarter revenues for Tribune, meanwhile, dropped 5% to $1.2 billion from $1.3 billion in 2001. Tribune posted a net loss of $101.6 million in the first quarter, due to $167.6 million in accounting adjustments; factoring out the adjustments, net income would have been $64 million, 9.4% below the same period last year.

Tribune's publishing group, which includes the newspapers Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Newsday, showed a 6% drop in revenue, while revenue from Tribune's broadcasting group was down 2%.

Ad revenue down 7% overall
Total advertising revenue was down 7% for the quarter, but is showing improvement in the second quarter, said Dennis FitzSimons, Tribune's president and chief operating officer.

While newspaper retail advertising remains flat, national newspaper spending is increasing, thanks to higher spending among transportation, technology and travel advertisers, he said.

Mr. FitzSimons said April is off to a good start for newspapers, which are expected to show sequentially better results during the quarter as year-over-year comparisons ease. Additionally, Tribune's TV properties are continuing to benefit from tighter inventories and favorable comparisons, and its WB network affiliates expect a strong upfront season, he said.

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