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Emmis cranks up volume on fourth quarter revenue

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Rumors of radio’s demise appear to be greatly exaggerated, at least for Emmis Communications Corp.

The nation’s ninth-largest radio group on Thursday reported that revenue for its fourth quarter ended Feb. 28 rose 8.5 percent, to $47 million, compared with $43.3 million in the fourth quarter of the previous year. Revenue in the most recent quarter included $32.4 million from the radio side of the business, up 11 percent, and $14.6 million from publishing, up 3 percent.

Indianapolis-based Emmis owns 18 FM and three AM stations. Local stations include WIBC-FM 93.1, WYXB-FM 105.7 and WLHK-FM 97.1. It also publishes a number of magazines tailored for major cities, including Indianapolis Monthly.

Total revenue for its 2014 fiscal year hit $205.1 million, an increase of nearly 5 percent over $196.1 million.

CEO Jeff Smulyan said 2014 was the fourth consecutive year Emmis outperformed its local radio markets and the industry as a whole.

"Our strong operating performance is the result of sound strategy and its execution by a phenomenal work force that makes me so proud," he said in a prepared statement.

For the fourth quarter, operating income was $700,000, compared to a loss of $400,000 for the same quarter of the prior year.  Emmis' station operating income for the quarter was $6.9 million, compared to $7.1 million a year earlier.

For the full year, operating income was $22.2 million, compared to $16.5 million in the prior year.  Emmis' station operating income in fiscal 2014 was $48.4 million, compared to $42.9 million in 2013.

Fourth-quarter profit attributable to shareholders was $33.2 million, or 82 cents a share, due in large part to a one-time, $35 million tax benefit. In the same quarter the previous year, profit attributable to shareholders was $4.3 million, or 11 cents per share.

In trading late Thursday morning, Emmis shares had risen 9 cents, to $3.47 each, an increase of about 2.7 percent.

Smulyan also noted as highlights the recent purchase of stations WBLS and WLIB in New York and momentum behind its NextRadio initiative. Emmis did not start selling advertising for the two New York stations until March 1, so those results were not factored into the fourth quarter.

The firm has led new technological developments for the industy including NextRadio, a system that allows certain cell phones to pick up local stations from the airwaves versus steaming music over the phone’s Web browser, which consumes data minutes allocated to a customer’s phone plan.

NextRadio also carries visual data embedded in the FM signal that can be displayed on the phone, such as album covers and coupons from advertisers on the radio station.

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