Hispanic Radio, Magazines Take Hits

On Air arrow down After years of rapid growth, Hispanic media has shown it's not immune to the effects of the general economic downturn, registering big drops in revenue for Hispanic radio and magazines in recent months. Moreover, some Hispanic radio broadcasters are facing the possibility of default under the terms of their lending covenants.

Earlier this week, Spanish Broadcasting System said its revenue fell 19% in the fourth quarter of 2008 compared to the same period in 2007 to $8.2 million. For the full year, revenues fell 14% to $24.1 million.

According to SBS Chairman and CEO Raul Alarcon Jr., the losses were due to s slump in local ad sales across the board, except for the Puerto Rico market. On the positive side, Alarcon noted that "we continued to generate industry-leading audience shares across our portfolio."

That holds out promise for the company's long-term viability, provided that it can avoid defaulting on its substantial debt. The company recently appeared on Moody's Investors Service's "Bottom Rung," a list of companies that Moody's says are most likely to default in the coming year.

Univision -- another big Spanish-language broadcaster -- also appeared on the list along with Radio One, an urban-format broadcaster, and radio groups with wider-format portfolios, such as Emmis, Citadel and Cumulus.

The news is not much better in the world of Spanish-language magazines, where ad pages fell 17.2% in the first two months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008, according to a report from Media Economics Group cited by Folio: magazine.

Among the biggest losers: Through February, Meredith's Siempre Mujer saw ad pages fall 39.8%, People en Espanol fell 24.8% and Latina was down 27.6%. These declines were slightly worse on average than consumer magazines at large, where total ad pages fell about 19% in the first two months of the year.

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