Sinclair profit up 33 percent in first quarter

Sinclair Broadcast Group reported Wednesday that profit jumped 33 percent in the first quarter, thanks to double-digit gains in spending by automotive advertisers and revenue generated by the 2011 Super Bowl.

Net income in the broadcast group rose to $15.3 million, or 19 cents per share, in the three months ended March 31, up from $11.5 million, or 14 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2010, the Hunt Valley television station owner reported. Earnings beat Wall Street analysts' estimates of 18 cents per share. Sinclair's net broadcast revenues rose 5.4 percent, to $156 million from $148 million.

Revenue from the Feb. 6 Super Bowl, shown on 20 Fox affiliate stations, increased more than 26 percent, to $6.2 million, compared with the $4.9 million generated when Fox aired the sporting event in 2008, the company said. That was the last time Fox aired the Super Bowl until this year.

Automotive advertising increased 22.7 percent in the quarter, though it is expected to slow somewhat because of manufacturing disruptions in Japan, David Smith, Sinclair's president and chief executive, said in a statement.

During the quarter, Sinclair entered into multi-year retransmission agreements with Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications. The contracts set the fees that the cable providers pay broadcast stations to include their signals in channel lineups.

Executives of Sinclair, which owns, operates and provides programming to 58 television stations in 35 markets, said on a Wednesday conference call for analysts that they would consider acquiring additional stations or purchasing stations in new markets. Also on Wednesday, Sinclair's board of directors declared a quarterly cash dividend of 12 cents per share, payable June 15.

Sinclair's stock fell 4.54 percent in trading Wednesday to close at $10.51 per share.

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