UPDATE 1-Media General exits newspaper biz; raises political ad revenue forecast
Oct 8 (Reuters) - Media General Inc exited its nearly two-centuries-old newspaper business by selling the Tampa Tribune, and raised its revenue forecast for political advertising on its TV stations due to stronger-than-anticipated demand in key election battlegrounds.
The company expects to get $57 million to $58 million this year from political advertisements, higher than the $50 million it had expected, boosted by the U.S. presidential election and hotly contested Senate races this year.
Media General has stations in four states that are key to the presidential election - Ohio, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina.
This year's political advertising during the presidential election could net revenue of $2.8 billion in local TV revenues, Moody's Investors Service said last month.
"Our Virginia, Rhode Island and Ohio stations are also benefiting from hotly contested Senate races," Media General Chief Executive Marshall Morton said in a statement.
The company sold almost all its newspapers to Berkshire Hathaway in May for $142 million to focus on its broadcast business.
The newspaper industry has over the past few years been dogged by plummeting advertising revenue and readers who prefer digital formats over paper and ink.
The sale of the Tampa Tribune to Revolution Capital Group for $9.5 million completes Media General's switch to a broadcast television and digital media company.
The newspaper, which has been with Media General since 1927 and has won a Pulitzer in 1966, has an average Monday to Friday circulation of about 144,000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation.
The company said plans are underway to increase broadcast cash flow and EBITDA margins.
The company said its corporate staffing has been reduced in half since June, partly as a result of the sale of its newspapers and party due to the layoffs in the third quarter that affected 75 employees.
CEO Morton also said the company's financial position has been strengthened by a new financing arrangement with Berkshire Hathaway.
Berkshire Hathaway disclosed a 17 percent stake in the company last month.
Media General shares were down 3 percent at $5.14 in Monday morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
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