The revenue falloff was the result of a 21% decline in its American radio business. These drops were behind an even larger falloff in operating income at its radio stations, which tumbled 60% from $18.8 million to $7.5 million. Like other big radio station owners, Emmis recorded a non-cash impairment charge reflecting the decreasing value of its assets, totaling $163.2 million.
Still, Emmis chairman and CEO Jeff Smulyan was guardedly optimistic about the rest of the year, noting that "across our properties, we see signs that the operating environment is slowly improving." He cited the company's recent purchase of $78.5 million of its own debt (at the discounted price of $44.7 million) as a move toward greater financial stability.
Emmis is just the latest radio broadcaster to announce rather grim results in the first quarter.
Clear Channel Radio -- the country's single biggest radio station owner -- saw total revenues fall 22% in the first quarter of 2009, compared to the same period in 2008, from $770 million to $604 million. Citadel broadcasting reported that total revenues fell 23% from $205.8 million to $158.9 million.
Cox Radio said its revenues were also down 23% in the first quarter of 2009, dropping to $75.5 million from $98 million in the first quarter of 2008. Cumulus Media said its total revenues fell 24% in the first quarter of 2009 -- sinking to $55.3 million compared to $73 million last year. Finally, urban format station owner Radio One said total revenues fell 16%, from $72.5 million in the first quarter of 2008 to $60.7 million in the first quarter of this year.