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Earnings Dip as Turner Shelves Checkout Channel

February 18, 1993 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) _ Turner Broadcasting System Inc. said Thursday it was shelving the Checkout Channel, a news show tailored for display in grocery stores.

The decision reduced the company’s profits, TBS said.

TBS, the cable television and sports company, said its fourth quarter earnings fell 30 percent, partly reflecting a one-time $16 million charge for discontinuing the network.

Turner said the network was requiring more investment than originally projected to reach profitability. The Checkout Channel, introduced early last year, was one of several alternative programming outlets explored by TBS.

Fourth-quarter earnings totaled $30 million or 4 cents a share. For the same three months of 1991, earnings were $43 million or 11 cents a share.

Fourth-quarter revenues were $538 million, up 33.8 percent from $402 million in the same period a year earlier.

Annual profits for 1992 fell 16 percent to $78 million, or 30 cents a share, down from $86 million, or 24 cents a share, in 1991.

Revenues for the year were $1.8 billion, up 20 percent from $1.5 billion in 1991.

TBS Chairman Ted Turner said the 1992 results show the effect of ″heavy investment″ in new businesses, including the start-up of the all-animation Cartoon Network.

″This is the best way to ensure long-term growth, and we will continue this practice in 1993,″ Turner said.

″Some of the results already are apparent. For the first time, international business has generated over 10 percent of consolidated revenue and the Cartoon Network is beginning to show very promising viewership and advertising trends,″ he said.

But the decision to end the Checkout Channel marked a setback for the company’s Turner Private Networks division, which also operates the successful Airport Channel and is experimenting with a network for fast food restaurants.

Turner Private Networks President Paul Beckham said Thursday the concept of alternative outlets is viable, though the Checkout Channel experienced some particularly high costs.

″It’s primarily a financial decision,″ Beckham said. ″We’ve had good response from the advertisers, customers and the chains.″

The Checkout Channel included short news and feature reports presented on TV monitors at supermarket checkout counters. It was available at 840 stores in 17 markets.

Beckham said stores carrying the Checkout Channel will be given the option of keeping the monitors and receiving CNN Headline News programming.

Turner’s Class B common shares, the more actively traded of two classes of shares, were off 87 1/2 cents in late afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, at $21.25.