Astral earnings edge higher

Ad sales affected by industry-wide decline in demand

TORONTO -- Canadian cable and pay TV broadcaster Astral Media on Thursday saw its third quarter earnings and revenue edge higher, but weathering the economic downturn is getting harder as ad sales slump.

Montreal-based Astral posted earnings up slightly to CAN$44.3 million ($37 million) for the three months to May 31, against a profit of CAN$43.28 million in 2008. Revenue also rose modestly to CAN$232.5 million ($199.5 million), against a year-earlier CAN$231.9 million.

TV revenue, up 3% to CAN$133 million ($114 million), offset a 4% fall in radio revenue to CAN$81.6 million, while outdoor advertising was virtually unchanged at CAN$17.7 million ($15 million).

In the TV division, subscriber revenue, up 7%, offset a 3% fall in ad revenue.

"While our subscriber revenues continued to rise, advertising sales were affected by the industry-wide decline in demand which continued to spread into all of our major markets in the third quarter," Astral Media CEO Ian Greenberg reported.

Astral, like rival broadcasters, has been cutting costs to survive the current economic downturn.

While insisting visibility was low, Greenberg told analysts during a morning call that the Canadian TV ad market will remain soft through the fourth quarter.

Astral operates radio, cable TV stations, a pay TV channel and an outdoor advertising business.
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