CanWest logs second-quarter loss

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TORONTO -- CanWest Global Communications, the Winnipeg, Manitoba-based broadcaster and newspaper publisher, on Friday reported a loss of CAN$34 million ($33.3 million) for the three months ending Feb. 29, compared with earnings of CAN$7 million in the year-ago period.

Second-quarter revenue rose 9% to CAN$702 million ($688 million), from a year-earlier CAN$644 million.

But CanWest Global's bottom line was dented by long-term liabilities and restructuring costs stemming from its acquisition last year of 13 cable channels from Alliance Atlantis Communications, a deal that was done with equity funding from Goldman Sachs & Co.

Stripping out these one-time items, CanWest Global said it earned CAN$4 million ($3.9 million) during the latest quarter.

The broadcaster added that its two Canadian conventional TV networks, Global Television and E!, faced a challenging advertising market that was compounded by fallout from the recent Hollywood writers' strike.

A first-time contribution from CW Media of CAN$83.7 million ($82 million) in revenue, which comprises the 13 new Alliance Atlantis cable channels, pushed combined Canadian TV revenue up 41% to CAN$234 million ($229.4 million).

Excluding CW Media, Canadian TV revenue fell 10% to CAN$150 million ($147 million), compared with a year-earlier CAN$166 million, as Global Television and E! fended off stiff competition from rival CTV, the Canadian primetime ratings leader.

Kathy Dore, president of CanWest Broadcasting, told analysts during a conference call that the broadcaster lost the rights to the 2008 NFL Super Bowl game to rival CTV, and did not fare as well with its replacement programming.

In addition, Global Television suffered from the strike-related loss of such popular dramas as Fox's "24," for example, while rival CTV weathered the winter labor dispute with reality TV series like Fox's "American Idol" and NBC's "American Gladiator."

CanWest Global CEO Leonard Asper forecast improved operating results in the second half of 2008, dependent on a better climate for the domestic TV ad market and the impact of the Summer Olympic Games, which will air on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

In Australia, where CanWest Global operates Network TEN, revenue rose 1% to CAN$139 million.
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