Emmis turns profit despite sluggish radio revenue growth

Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications Corp. on Thursday reported a profit of $4.3 million in its third fiscal quarter, down 7 percent from the same period last year.

The nation’s 10th-largest publicly held radio broadcaster said revenue of $52.6 million in the quarter ended Nov. 30 was up 3.4 percent from the same period last year, despite this fall's government shutdown and the absence of political advertising that boosted results last year.

Revenue from radio operations grew 0.4 percent, while sales at Emmis’ publishing division, which includes Indianapolis Monthly, jumped nearly 10 percent.

Third quarter operating income—a barometer Emmis prefers because it excludes the effects of debt service—rose 6 percent to $8.7 million.

“This has actually been a very, very encouraging quarter,” Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan said in a conference call with investors Thursday morning. 

He indicated that the outlook for the radio division was improving in the fourth quarter.

Smulyan said NextRadio, an Emmis-developed mobile app that allows certain Sprint cell phones to pick up radio stations over the air, has exceeded 100,000 activations.

Emmis has led the NextRadio industry initiative, with Smulyan estimating it could eventually generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year in new revenue for radio broadcasters.

Emmis owns 18 FM and 3 AM stations in Austin, Texas; Los Angeles; New York; St. Louis; Terre Haute and Indianapolis. Its local stations include WIBC-FM 93.1 and WLHK-FM 97.1.

Shares of Emmis rose 8 percent in Thursday morning trading, to $3.15 each.

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