NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The New York Times Co. put its stake in the Boston Red Sox up for sale today as it reported a $57.8 million loss in 2008 and a fourth-quarter decline in even internet ad revenue.
The loss, compared with a $208.7 million profit in 2007, stemmed largely from a 13.1% decline last year in ad sales, where the company derived 60% of its 2008 revenue.
Companywide, digital ad revenue fell 3.5% in the fourth quarter, to $81.9 million from $84.9 million in the year-ago period, but rose 9.3% over the whole year, to $308.8 million from $282.5 million. Digital ad revenue represented 17.5% of total company ad revenue in the fourth quarter, and 17.4% of ad revenue for the year.
Circulation revenue, which contributed almost 31%, grew 2.3% because of price hikes.
Times Co. President-CEO Janet L. Robinson told analysts during a conference call that advertisers will probably remain cautious with their budgets in the early part of the year.
But could the ongoing challenge to the newspaper industry actually help The Times? "As other newspapers cut back on international and national coverage -- or cease operation -- we believe there will be opportunities for The Times to fill this void," Ms. Robinson said.
The Times Co. has hired Goldman Sachs to help sell its 17.75% stake in New England Sports Ventures, which owns the Sox, Fenway Park, about 80% of cable's New England Sports Network and 50% of the Nascar team Roush Fenway Racing. The company acquired the stake in 2002 as a part of a group, but has been urged by outsiders to cash out as its core newspaper business floundered. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that efforts to sell the stake had begun.
The irony, of course, is that the Red Sox looks like a more lucrative investment than newspapers. Nor does the recession create ideal conditions to sell. But The Times Co. has apparently decided the liquidity resulting from a sale would be worth it.
It recently agreed to pay 14% interest on a $250 million loan from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.