Ratings to Die For and Why Some Investment Groups Like the Bottom Line of TV Stations

There’s nothing like a walk down memory lane and my good friend and former co-worker Jack Church recently led me down a path I hadn’t visited in a while. Jack, who is a natural born salesman, used to do weather. Jack has worked in a number of markets and knows people in just about every market. He left the glamorous (snort) and high paying (chuckle) world of broadcast news for a real job a few years back but that’s a story for another time. Jack was reminding me of when he and I worked for WEVU-TV, the ABC affiliate in Fort Myers, FL. Jack who stays in touch with the former station manager and apparently that person had some old ratings books from back in the day in 1987-88. Understand at the time that the Ft. Myers/Naples area had a huge cable penetration. WEVU’s early news pulled in something like an 13 rating. What station wouldn’t kill for that kind of number these days. Granted, the CBS affiliate (WINK) pulled something like a 40 rating and the NBC affiliate (WBBH) had a 30-rating. But how times have changed thanks to satellite and cable channels drawing away the audience. Nowadays people would be cheering over numbers we used to hang our heads about.Yes, there were times when TV and radio stations were considered by many to be “licenses to print money.” Those days may be past but a TV station has to be pretty dog-gone bad not to make money and lots of it. As you have read here from such sources as “The GM” and other fine contributors, the profit margin is still there, just somewhat diminished from the glory days. With that in mind, I received this from Jack (ever the salesman) who thought I’d find it interesting. The source is tv newsday. As Jack pointed out, only two of the groups show a loss in revenue. I’ll let you see which groups those are.


Rank TV Group Revenue (000) % chg.

2006 2005 2006 2005


1 1 Fox $2,440,040 $2,298,600 6.17

2 2 CBS 1,914,575 1,852,600 3.35

3 3 NBC 1,827,275 1,786,550 2.28

4 5 ABC 1,237,550 1,154,800 7.17

5 4 Tribune 1,099,875 1,176,800 -6.54

6 6 Gannett 1,023,750 853,875 19.89

7 7 Hearst-Argyle 846,625 762,175 11.08

8 8 Belo 796,925 723,600 10.13

9 10 Univision 739,925 626,775 18.05

10 11 Cox 648,900 619,275 4.78

11 9 Raycom 629,275 702,650 -10.44

12 12 Sinclair 616,950 591,050 4.38

13 13 LIN 518,600 457,950 13.24

14 18 Media General 440,625 320,675 37.41

15 15 E.W. Scripps 439,250 373,500 17.60

16 14 Post-Newsweek 424,150 377,500 12.36

17 19 Clear Channel 362,375 314,225 15.32

18 16 Meredith 358,900 326,850 9.81

19 17 Gray 354,900 324,150 9.49

20 21 Sunbeam 256,200 218,375 17.32

21 20 Young 232,875 218,700 6.48

22 22 Allbritton 226,975 206,800 9.76

23 23 Nexstar 192,875 178,000 8.36

24 26 Entravision 183,675 135,875 35.18

25 24 Local TV 170,025 157,250 8.12

26 25 Journal 151,675 144,100 5.26

27 29 Freedom 142,500 124,625 14.34

28 27 Hubbard 140,700 130,250 8.02

29 28 McGraw-Hill 138,050 129,100 6.93

30 38 Granite 136,175 82,400 65.26

31 50 Barrington 133,150 31,875 317.73

32 31 Fisher 130,225 114,875 13.36

33 32 Cordillera 124,350 102,150 21.73

34 30 Dispatch 123,350 116,575 5.81

35 37 Landmark 100,500 82,800 21.38

36 35 Cunningham 92,875 87,275 6.42

37 34 Capitol 92,500 88,950 3.99

38 36 Lincoln 92,100 85,625 7.56

39 39 Sunbelt 90,200 76,000 18.68

40 42 Pappas 89,625 69,475 29.00

41 43 Quincy 87,900 65,325 34.56

42 33 Ion Media 80,825 99,675 -18.91

43 49 Schurz 80,100 53,875 48.68

44 40 Montecito 76,400 73,475 3.98

45 41 Weigel 75,175 69,700 7.86

46 45 Griffin 70,325 58,300 20.63

47 44 Bahakel 66,050 59,925 10.22

48 48 Mission 64,850 56,600 14.58

49 46 Midwest 64,000 58,000 10.34

50 47 CCA 61,000 61,000 7.06


Source: BIA Financial Network

Copyright 2007 TV Newsday, Inc. All rights reserved.This article can be found online at: http://www.tvnewsday.com/articles/2007/05/29/daily.12/.
Please visit http://www.tvnewsday.com/ for more on this and other breaking news concerning the TV broadcasting industry.
Okay, there is some problem with trying to copy and paste the rankings over from the excel spreadsheet to this blog post and nothing lines up. For those trying to decipher what I posted, the first column is the 2006 ranking, the second is the 2005 ranking, the third is the amount of money earned in 2006 and the 4th is the amount of money earned in 2005. The final column is the amount of change in percentage. Sorry about that chief.

Perhaps the fact that Raycom is one of those two groups with negative numbers is why they are supposedly asking for money from cable companies to carrying their signal. I’m still waiting on someone to fill me in on that.

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9 Comments on “Ratings to Die For and Why Some Investment Groups Like the Bottom Line of TV Stations”

  1. The GM Says:

    Thanks for the reference in the post. Part of my reasoning for commenting is to make people in this industry understand that the bottom-line ultimately is the bottom-line. Stations are there to cover the community and to report the news BUT if it is losing money or not living up to its potential, guess what. Changes will happen.

    Take the Memphis market and WREG as a hypothetical example. The Memphis market is about a $100 million (give or take $10million) market. Of that $100million, WREG probably takes 25% (guesstimate on my part). So WREG has $25million in reveunue. Based on the logevity of some of their staff and the money the NYTimes Co. pumped into that station, I’d say its a fair guess that their annual operating budget is about $15million. Net down the $25million in revenue for agency commissions and WREG has a net revenue of $21million against expenses of $15million. That would give them a profit margin of 28% — low for the industry.

    Now, the new owners look at this station and this market and say. Here’s a station whose expenses are too high and may not be capturing their fair share of the market. The new owners think they can cut expenses by, lets be conservative 7% or about $1million. They also think a better sales effort will raise the market share by 1%, that’s about a million in gross revenue and $850,000 in net revenue. Suddenly WREG has a net revenue of nearly $22million and expenses of $14million. That my friend is a profit margin of 36% — much more in line with the industry and where the staion should be.

    Will a cut in expenses hurt WREG in the ratings? Probably not because the station has long had a reputation of operating fat.

    Now my numbers are only guesses but this is how it works. It is business at the end of the day.

    The GM

  2. Jack Church Says:


    I was concerned when I started reading that you were going to be telling of our boating adventures but of course that probably belongs in anothe forum.

    As for the comments by “The GM”…indeed it is a business, but having worked now on the other side of the industry I think the GM would agree that broadcasters have to at some point adjust to a more realistic profit margin expectation. Yes, margins of 40 and 50% were not unheard of 20 years ago. But in todays world I think 36% is becoming more and more unrealistic. The old broadcast business plan from 1965 has to be adjusted. Unfortunatley it will likely happen with more and deeper cuts at the station level and eventually some local stations will simply go dark. A prime example is local newspapers. Check out how many local newspapers were in a given city 30 years ago compared to today.

    Take a look at the net profit margin of major US corporations. A recent study by Business Week magazine for the year 2006 showed profit margins of several US companies like FedEx, Cisco Systems, Dell and yes even an oil giant like Chevron-Texaco to be less than 22% and in some cases as low as 5% to 8%. Of course this is why many companies then move jobs overseas to pump up the margins. However in the case of broadcasters I’m not sure we have found a way to outsource our local news to India and China. But I’m sure given the current path it can’t be that far away!!

  3. The GM Says:

    The GM doesn’t disagree with you on realistic margins. The investment bankers, now they disagree. The problem for stations is revenue is flat. In the examples cited like oil and FedEx, revenue is growing so the margin may be less but the profits are growing. With flat broadcast revenue, one can only show growth by being more efficient. The unromantic truth is the “broadcaster” has been replaced by the “banker”.
    The GM

  4. Tallyho Says:

    The NBC O&O’s have been outsourcing their web hosting to India for about 3 years.

  5. WHAT IS THIS Says:




  6. JD Says:

    To Jack Church and the GM, and of course, Joe:

    I thought I had seen it all but then comes today while I was channel surfing locally.

    Jerry Springer on CW30 at exactly 12 noon! What is this? Noon was always the time for the news and weather and stock reports…….not fighting midgets and flashing female audience members!
    Holy Cats! What would good old Paul Dorman, Russ Hodge and Kitty Kelly say!

    Guess the GM has hit the nail on the head once again! “The bottom line is the bottom line.”

  7. The GM Says:

    I don’t think Springer at noon on WLMT is the end of civilization as we know it. WLMT — and WPTY for that fact — have never had a noon show. If WREG or WMC blew-out their noon for syndicated programming, that would signal bankers have a stronger influence over broadcast journalists in those shops.

    The GM

  8. MissinBeale Says:

    Joe, you might want to check the website for this article again. It now includes this:

    CLARIFICATION: After the story was originally posted on May 29, it and the accompanyinng chart were changed to relect revisions in the revenue of Raycom Media for 2005 and 2006. The revisions were the result of certain purchases and sales of TV stations by Raycom in those years. The changes did not affect Raycom’s ranking, but they did dramatically affect its percentage change in revenue. They also affected the Top 50 totals at the bottom of the chart. Also note that the 2005 revenue for Journal Broadcast includes the 2005 revenue of the stations Journal purchased from Emmis Communications.

  9. joelarkins Says:

    Thanks for the “heads-up”.

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