Clear Channel Outdoor Revs Tumble 25%

billboard/down arrow After years of buoyant growth despite the declines in other traditional media, out-of-home advertising appears to be plunging back to earth during the recession, judging by the negative results released by Clear Channel Outdoor on Monday and CBS Outdoor last week.

On Monday, Clear Channel Outdoor revealed that total advertising revenues tumbled 25% in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same period last year, from $775 million to $582 million. This included a 19% drop in the U.S. market, from $333 million to $270 million, and a 29% drop in the international market, from $442 million to $312 million.

Within the international decline, $62.2 million of the decrease was due to movements in foreign currencies versus the U.S. dollar. By the same token, the changing exchange rates are also helping to lower expenses. Some overseas markets are less affected by the downturn, with Clear Channel Outdoor CEO Paul J. Meyer citing "continued resilience of our Latin American and Canadian businesses."

It wasn't all bad news at home, either. Meyer pointed to the continued growth of Clear Channel's already considerable digital out-of-home signage network -- presently the main driver of revenue growth, although he conceded that the company was scaling back new deployment plans for the time being.

Also, CBS announced Thursday that revenues at its outdoor division fell 24% in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008, from $497 million to $380 million.

Both outdoor advertising businesses have been increasingly important contributors to the bottom lines of their parent companies, Clear Channel Communications and CBS, but now the negative turn in revenues is merely adding to their woes.

CCC's combined radio and outdoor revenues fell 23% in the first quarter to $1.2 billion, while CBS' total revenues (including outdoor, radio, TV, and publishing) fell 24% to $3.16 billion. In fact, outdoor is now seeing bigger revenue declines than radio, in total dollar terms.

CBS Radio revenues fell $104 million compared to $117 million at CBS Outdoor, while Clear Channel Outdoor fell $194 million, compared to $167 million at Clear Channel Radio.

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