Torstar results expose CTV loss

Torstar loss owing to a 20% stake in CTVglobemedia

TORONTO -- Broadcasting the 2010 Vancouver Olympics secured strong advertising revenue for Canada's CTV network, but not enough to stop parent-CTVglobemedia from posting a first quarter loss.

First-quarter resulted posted Wednesday by Torstar Corp. indicate its loss owing to a 20% stake in CTVglobemedia to March 31 was $4.4 million, against a loss of $6.9 million in the same period of 2009.

Publicly-traded Torstar provides a window on the performance of privately held CTVglobemedia, which runs the top-rated CTV network and publishes the Globe and Mail daily newspaper.

Torstar reported CTVglobemedia's latest quarterly advertising sales were "very strong" due to the Winter Olympics and a rebounding economy.

CTV and partner Rogers Communications paid $86.4 million for the rights to the Vancouver Games, where they enjoyed home field advantage as they drummed up ad and sponsorship dollars, and another $60.5 million for the 2012 Games.

Torstar said CTVglobemedia's first quarter bottom line benefited from lower operating costs and lower restructuring charges offset in part by a higher interest expense.

The first quarter also saw CTVglobemedia take a $5.3 million after tax write-down on the carrying value of conventional TV licenses in rural Canadian markets that it did not renew.

That move followed CTVglobemedia lobbying the federal government to order cable operators to pony up more money to subsidize local programming by over-the-air TV stations suffering from a loss in ad revenue and a shift of audiences to niche channels and the Internet.

CTVglobemedia also trimmed its first quarter losses by recording a gain on the sale of one-half of its stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns and operates the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Toronto Raptors and Toronto FC pro sports teams.

CTV and rivals Rogers Media and Canwest Global Communications Corp. are set to buy new and returning U.S. network series from Hollywood suppliers at the upcoming Los Angeles Screenings.

CTV is expected to face stepped up competition for U.S. series from Canwest Global, which earlier this week announced it will have a new owner in cable giant Shaw Communications once it emerges from court-directed creditor protection.

Torstar, which reported Wednesday earnings of $7.4 million, against a year-earlier loss of $21.4 million, earlier this week said it has bid formally for Canwest Global's newspaper and online divisions, which are also in bankruptcy protection.