Weak Signal: 3 Radio Companies Report Big Losses

money down Three radio broadcasters posted their first-quarter results this week, and the news was not good: Double-digit percentage drops in revenue across the board.

Their results gave little cause to hope for a turnaround in the beleaguered radio business in the near future, although there were a few optimistic signs.

On Thursday, Entercom, one of the largest radio broadcasters in the U.S., reported that its net revenues fell 21% in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008, from $95.4 million to $75.4 million. Earnings before income taxes and other charges plunged 51%, with station operating income down 47%.

Entercom president and CEO David Field wryly observed: "The best thing that can be said about the first quarter of 2009 is that it is now behind us." Field revealed that second-quarter revenues were sharply down so far, but added there had been a slight rebound in recent weeks.

Similarly, Entravision Communications' Spanish-language radio division, which owns and operates 48 stations, saw first-quarter revenues tumble 31% compared to 2008, from $19.5 million to $13.4 million. Revenues at its Spanish-language TV division slid 22%, from $36.1 million in 2008 to $28.3 million in 2009.

Entravision, which like many other radio groups is burdened with considerable debt, renegotiated its lending agreements in mid-March. Entravision Chairman and CEO Walter F. Ulloa called it a "challenging environment for businesses such as ours, that are dependent upon advertising revenue."

Beasley Broadcast Group, with 44 stations in 11 radio markets across the United States, said its total revenues fell 23.2% in the first quarter of 2009, from $29.4 million to $22.6 million. BBG also blamed the "overall downturn in advertising spending as a result of the weak macroeconomic environment." The company was able to mitigate -- but not fully offset -- the impact of revenue declines with aggressive cost-cutting, which reduced total expenses by 18%.

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