Rogers posts loss of $109.5 mil

Writedown on OTA channels reflects ad downturn

TORONTO -- Canadian cable and wireless phone giant Rogers Communications on Wednesday skidded into the red after it wrote down the value of its free, over-the-air TV business amid a worsening advertising downturn.

Toronto-based Rogers posted a loss of CAN$138 million ($109.5 million) for the three months to Dec. 31, against a profit of CAN$254 million in 2008, despite overall revenue rising 9% to CAN$2.94 billion, against a year-earlier $2.68 billion.

Rogers took a hit with a noncash impairment charge of CAN$294 million ($233 million) against the goodwill, broadcast licenses and other assets of its OTA TV business owing to "recessionary declines in advertising revenue."

Rogers' media arm includes 52 radio stations, the conventional Citytv-branded and OMNI-branded TV stations, and a host of cable channels, including the Outdoor Life Network.

"The challenging economic conditions have resulted in a weakening of industry expectations in the conventional television business," Rogers said in a statement.

The writedown on its OTA channels is the latest sign of worsening fortunes for Canadian broadcasters, after CanWest Global Communications Corp. last week said it was putting its E!-branded TV stations up for sale.

Other Canadian broadcasters have asked the country's TV watchdog to relax regulatory obligations on their conventional TV stations so they have a chance of survival in the current economic climate.

Rogers was still able to post a higher dividend, as the one-time conventional TV writedown was offset by higher subscriber fees from cable and wireless phone customers.