Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset Posts First-Quarter Loss

Mediaset's headquarters in Milan

The company surprised observers by turning a small profit in 2013, but an uncertain ad market and the high cost for sports rights led to a loss in the latest period.

ROME – Italian television and movie giant Mediaset posted a first-quarter loss, hurt by continued advertising weakness and an inability to cut costs as much as anticipated.

For the quarter, the company lost $17.5 million (€12.5 million), compared with a gain of $13.1 million (€9.3 million) a year ago. Revenue also fell, although only slightly, checking in at $1.15 billion (€820 million) compared to $1.17 billion (€831 million) in the first quarter of 2013.

In 2012, Mediaset — controlled by billionaire media magnate and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi — reported its first-ever full-year loss, with $329 million (€235 million) of red ink. The company vowed to return to profitability this year, and in March, officials surprised observers by announcing the company actually turned a small profit of $12.5 million (€8.9 million) for 2013, though officials said at the time that ad sales remained soft.

The weak ad sales and high costs of securing rights to broadcast games from Italy’s top Serie A soccer division on its pay TV channels combined to produce the loss for the January-to-March period.

The company also declined to make latest predictions for the year as a whole, citing an unpredictable ad market.

Twitter: @EricJLyman