TV Lifts Washington Post Company, Still Without Paywall at Flagship Paper

Charging for Web Access Might Not Support Print as it Does Elsewhere

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Third-quarter broadcast and cable TV revenue helped make up for sluggish results elsewhere in the third quarter at the Washington Post Co., the company said today.

Operating revenue at the broadcast division jumped 44% to $106.4 million as the Olympics and election season boosted demand for advertising, according to the company, which is partly owned by billionaire Warren Buffett. The cable business climbed 6% percent to $199.6 million, the Washington-based company said.

Excluding items such as restructuring expenses, the company's third-quarter income from continuing operations rose 23% percent to $50.4 million, or $6.79 a share, from $40.9 million, or $5.18 a share, a year earlier. Operating revenue was little changed at $1.01 billion.

The company's Kaplan education unit, once a saving grace amid the decline in its newspaper business, has come under government scrutiny along with the rest of the for-profit education industry and faces increasing regulation. Revenue at the unit -- which provides more than half the company's revenue -- slid 8% to $552.6 million.

The company's flagship Washington Post newspaper, meanwhile, is struggling to retain readers and hasn't capitalized on online-subscription programs that have benefited other major newspapers, including The New York Times. That's partly because the digital paywalls at The Times and elsewhere help encourage print subscriptions by giving home delivery accounts free digital access. But some 90% of Washington Post readers on the web don't live in the metro D.C. area and probably could not be convinced to sign up for print, executives are calculating .

Weekday circulation fell 8.9% to 462,228, while the Sunday edition dropped 20% to 674,751, according to the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Print advertising at the Post fell 11% to $51.4 million.

U.S. newspapers in general have suffered a slide in advertising sales, dropping 6.6% in the first half of this year, according to the most recently available data from the Newspaper Association of America.

The company's online-publishing revenue, which mostly comes from Washington Post and Slate digital advertising sales, rose 13% to $26.9 million.

The company has moved to diversify its business beyond education and media to include health care. It agreed last month to acquire a majority interest in Celtic Healthcare Inc., a provider of health-care and hospice services in the Northeastern and mid-Atlantic.

The move is in keeping with the company's strategy of operating a "diverse group of businesses," CEO Donald E. Graham said at the time.

In an effort to add digital expertise, Graham also named Dave Goldberg, the CEO of and husband of Facebook Inc. executive Sheryl Sandberg, to join the board in September.

Mr. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is the company's largest shareholder, with a 28% stake, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

~Bloomberg News~

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