Radio Ends '03 With Stronger Ad Signals

It may have been an up-and-down year in radio, but the latest data from the Radio Advertising Bureau suggests that ad spending rose in the final month of 2003.

The Radio Advertising Bureau said Monday afternoon that December's local and national ad revenue increased 2 percent compared to the same period a year ago. That helped the industry to recover from a poor start to the fourth quarter, where spending fell. But it also wasn't enough to turn overall ad spending positive, the RAB said. Radio ad spending fell 1 percent locally and nationally in the quarter ended Dec. 31.

The RAB's survey is the first glimpse of how radio advertising finished 2003, a subject of much speculation in the industry. The year began with great enthusiasm, dove later in the first quarter with the Iraq war, recovered through the summer, and then dropped in the fall. None of the big publicly traded radio companies have reported their fourth quarter and year-end financial results, although that will begin in earnest within the next week or so.



For the full year, RAB's data shows strong national ad revenues but essentially flat spending in local, which is by far the largest portion of stations' income. Local ad revenues in 2003 are estimated at $15.1 billion, down slightly from the $15.13 billion tallied in 2002. National revenues rose 6 percent to $3.47 billion in 2003 compared to $3.27 billion in 2002. And network ad revenues, a small portion of the overall picture, rose 3 percent to $1.03 billion in 2003 from $1 billion in 2002.

Overall radio ad revenue rose 1 percent to $19.6 billion in 2003 compared to a year ago.

Most radio executives believe the industry will bounce back in the New Year. TNS Media Intelligence/CMR's forecast for 2004 predicts that radio ad spending will have robust growth, up 9.5 percent compared to 2003. That would bring radio's rate of growth at near parity with network TV and besting all but Spanish language TV, Internet, and spot TV.

The RAB's data comes from a survey of more than 150 markets nationwide.

2003 Radio Advertising Index

December Fourth Quarter Calendar Year 2003 Ad Dollars
Local +2% -1% No change $15.100 billion
National +2% -1% +6% $3.470 billion
Network NA NA +3% $1.033 billion
Total +2% -1% +1% $19.409 billion

Source: Radio Advertising Bureau's Radio Revenue Index of stations in more than 150 markets. Compiled by Miller, Kaplan, Arase & Co. NA = Not available.
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