Gray Television, Inc. (GTN)

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Gray Television (GTN)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

February 24, 2012 10:00 am ET

Executives

Hilton H. Howell - Vice Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Member of Executive Committee

Robert S. Prather - President, Chief Operating Officer, Director and Member of Executive Committee

James C. Ryan - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President

Analysts

Aaron Watts - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Bishop Cheen - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

Marci Ryvicker - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

Barry L. Lucas - Gabelli & Company, Inc.

Presentation

Operator

Good day, everyone, and welcome to the Gray Television's Fourth Quarter 2011 Earnings Release Conference Call. Today's call is being recorded. For opening remarks and introductions, I'd like to turn the call over to Hilton Howell, Vice Chairman and CEO. Please go ahead, sir.

Hilton H. Howell

Thank you very much, operator, and good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Fourth Quarter and 2011 Year-to-Date Gray Television Earnings Call. I will begin with a brief overview of our results, followed by Bob Prather, our President and Chief Operating Officer, who will add his thoughts concerning our performance this year. And then Jim Ryan, our Chief Financial Officer, will follow with a brief discussion in financial highlights. Questions will be answered at the conclusion of our comments.

All in all, we are quite happy with our results for the fourth quarter and full year 2011. Although our total revenue dropped by 26% to $84.6 million (sic) [$84.7 million] for the quarter and dropped 11% to $307.1 million for the year, this was entirely due to 2011 being an off-year political cycle.

This quarter, we dropped $28.6 million in political advertising from the record pace we set in last year's fourth quarter, where we hit a record of $114.6 million in total revenue due to a company-high political advertising of $57.6 million. This year, significantly, we have also set a record of $13.5 million of political advertising revenue for an off year quarter, the previous record being $10 million in 2009.

Of our 5 largest advertising categories, automotive, restaurants, medical, communications and furniture and appliances, for the quarter automotive increased by 17%, restaurants decreased by less than 1%, medical increased by 18%, communications decreased 2%. And for the full year of 2011, all the categories increased. Automotive increased by 6%, restaurants increased by 1%, medical increased by 12%, communications increased by 3% and furniture and appliances increased by 7%.

The solid performance and steady growth of our core television properties resulted in net income of $7.5 million or $0.10 per share for the quarter and net income of $9 million or $0.03 per share for the year. We also used our free cash flow to retire $20 million of our outstanding preferred and accrued dividends in 2011, continuing our ongoing efforts to improve our balance sheet.

As we look to 2012, we expect robust and likely record growth in earnings for the year. We have had the Super Bowl on NBC, which was a huge ratings success. This summer, we will have the Olympics from London, also on NBC, which may be one of the best-viewed Olympics ever. And we are certain to have a record-shattering presidential election year regardless of who the Republicans eventually nominate.

I would also like to take a brief moment to publicly acknowledge a number of individuals who have been vitally important to the growth and success of Gray Television over the years. First, I'd like to thank Bob Beizer, our Vice President of Law and Development, for his 16 years of service with our company. Bob will be retiring at the end of this month, and we want to wish him the very best for the future. Second, I want to thank Senator Zell Miller of Georgia for his service on our Board of Directors. He announced his retirement at our last meeting. On behalf of the board and of the company, I want to publicly thank him for his advice and counsel over the years. Finally, I want to recognize Mr. Neal Ray, who has served as our Chief Outside Legal Counsel and has worked with the company since he began his legal career in the early 1960s. Thank you, Neal, for your invaluable help over the years.

I also want to take a moment to welcome Kevin Latek to our company. He joins us as our new Vice President of Law and Development. Many of you know Kevin and are aware of his work in the broadcasting industry. We are proud to have him become a full-time team member with Gray Television and welcome him the 1st of March.

With that, I will turn it over to Bob Prather for his further comments. Bob?

Robert S. Prather

Thanks, Hilton. Welcome, everybody. I won't talk too much about last year. It seems like ancient history now. We had a good year, and I think everybody realizes that. The industry had a good year overall, and once again, our results are right at the top of the industry, which we're proud of.

But 2012 is going to be a great year for us. Obviously, political is going to come in probably bigger and better than we think. And as Hilton mentioned, we'll have the Olympics, which should be -- has always been big for us. And we had the NBC with the Super Bowl, which NBC is around 42% of our revenue, so it's a much bigger factor for us than when FOX has it, for example, which is our ABC is a much smaller part of our revenue.

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