Major Radio Groups Slump, Blame Missing Political Ads

The fourth quarter of 2013 was a distinctly mediocre one for the radio industry, judging by the early results announced by the three big broadcast radio groups. The weak performance was mostly due to the absence of political advertising associated with the 2012 elections, execs were quick to point out.
 
Emmis Communications saw total radio revenues in its third quarter (including September, October, and November) edge up 0.4%, while its publishing revenues grew 9.8%, for total revenues of $52.6 million -- up 3.4% from $50.9 million in the same period in 2012.

Emmis President and CEO Jeff Smulyan noted that “the government shutdown in October, coupled with nonrecurring political revenues from the prior year, caused significant headwinds for us and the radio industry.” But he pointed to an upswing in the company’s fiscal fourth quarter, including December, January and February.
 
On Tuesday, Emmis announced the acquisition of WBLS 107.4, with an urban adult contemporary format, and WLIB 1190 AM, offering an urban gospel format from YMF Media for $131 million. The acquisition of the stations, both located in New York City, will boost Emmis’ ability to reach African-American audiences in the region. The purchase price will be paid in two installments, with the second scheduled for February 2015.
 
Separately, Beasley Broadcast Group saw total revenues slip 0.5% from $27.4 million to $27.3 million, again reflecting the absence of $1.2 million of political advertising revenues associated with the 2012 elections. When political advertising was excluded, Beasley’s total revenues were up 2% on a same-station basis.

Overall, CEO George Beasley was cautiously optimistic, noting that the “fourth quarter radio advertising environment in our markets remains healthy,” while the company continues to pay down its debt. Looking ahead, Beasley said, “in 2014, we remain focused on ensuring that our station clusters match or exceed their market’s revenue performance while further strengthening our balance sheet,” including further debt reductions.
 
Finally, Entercom Communications saw total revenues dip 2% from $102.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2012 to $99.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2013. When political ad revenues are excluded, however, Entercom’s total revenues would have been up 2%.

Entercom President and CEO David Field added: “2014 began on a solid note with January revenues up moderately over the prior year. We are optimistic about 2014 performance based on improving sales capabilities and execution, strong ratings and meaningful local growth opportunities.”

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