Broadcaster Sees Flat Same-Station Revenues

Despite a down quarter in several of its largest markets and flat results for its same-station sales, station group Entercom Communications Corp. saw revenues and net income rise in the fourth quarter and for the full year.

The nation's fourth-largest station owner reported $104.6 million in revenues for the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared to $101.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2002. Same-station revenues--which don't reflect acquisitions--were flat in the quarter, falling to $104.5 million in 2003 compared to $105.2 million in 2002. The strongest categories were insurance, home improvement, telecom, and automotive.

Net income in the quarter was $21.8 million/42 cents a share, compared to $18.8 million/37 cents a share for the same three-month period in 2002. Same-station operating revenue declined, from $46.7 million in the third quarter of 2002 to $44.7 million for the same period a year later. In mid-December 2003, Entercom purchased two radio stations in Portland, Ore. from Fisher Communications in Seattle, for $44 million.

Executives weren't excited by the quarter, but said results were due mainly to weakness in Entercom's largest markets: Seattle, Boston, and Denver. Radio advertising in those markets fell by mid- to high-single digits; Entercom didn't release its station-by-station results. Boston, Seattle, and Denver comprise about 39 percent of Entercom's total revenues, according to Bear, Stearns.

"We did a very good job competing under adverse circumstances," said David J. Field, president and chief executive of Entercom.

Local revenues showed growth in amount and market share, while national sales fell in revenues and market share. Local ad spending--about 80 percent of Entercom's revenues--rose in the single digits, and market share was up. But national revenues fell by mid-single digits compared to the fourth quarter of 2002, and Field said Entercom was losing market share. He said Entercom had discussed with Interep, its national rep firm, ways to address the problem and to improve performance.

Looking ahead to the first quarter of 2004--which has little more than a month remaining--Entercom said revenues would grow between 3 percent and 5 percent compared to a year ago. Revenues were $81 million in the first quarter of 2003, compared to $74.1 million in the first quarter of 2002. Entercom was seeing a stronger March in pacings than either January or February. Local is tracking slightly better than national, and some slippage was noted in national radio for March.

"Business conditions aren't bad for the first quarter, but they aren't terrific either," Field said.

Entercom Revenues/Net Income

Q4 2003 Revenues: $104.6 million Q4 2002 Revenues: $101.9 million FY 2003 Revenues: $401.0 million FY 2002 Revenues: $391.2 million

Q4 2003 Net Income: $21.8 million Q4 2002 Net Income: $18.8 million FY 2003 Net Income: $71.7 million FY 2002 Net Income: ($83 million)

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