Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Cablevision: Newsday Deal Wasn’t (Quite) as Bad as We Feared

newspaperlessFrom the small victories department: Cablevision says that its purchase of Newsday last summer wasn’t quite the disaster it had feared. That is, instead of taking a $450 million write-down on the $650 million purchase, the cable company is only writing off $402 million on the Long Island newspaper.

As I said, it’s a small victory.

But as long as we’re totaling those up, we may as well as look at Newsday’s performance in the last quarter, detailed in the Cablevision (CVC) earnings release posted this morning. The paper generated revenue of $107 million and adjusted operating cash flow of $10.3 million.

That is, if Jim Dolan and company hadn’t overpaid for the paper last summer, it would have churned out a decent profit in the last three months of 2008. Which underscores the point Ad Age’s Nat Ives made earlier this week: For all the moaning about the fate of the newspaper business, many individual papers are doing just fine, at least as operating businesses. It’s their publishers, who have taken on way too much debt and/or paid too much for the papers (just ask Rupert Murdoch), who have the real problems.

That won’t be much comfort to the employees at places like Hearst’s San Francisco Chronicle, who’ve been told they’ll need to make major concessions or the paper will fold. But we’ll take the good news anywhere we can find it these days.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald