Versatile broadcaster Larry Patrick tells us that the great thing about his broker gig is that he gets to play Monopoly every day. So at the risk that he owns Boardwalk and Park Place and has hotels on each, we will travel with him for an overview of broadcasting today and his own role in the business.
Current company: Patrick Communications (brokerage) and Legend Communications (small market radio group)
Position: Managing Partner
Location: Elkridge, Maryland — Live in Clarksville, Maryland with three dogs and have homes in Wyoming and Montana also.
Place of Birth: Louisville, KY
Date of Birth: Post-Civil War. I think that I met Marconi a long time ago.
Personal info: Susan (also a Managing Partner here) I generally shield my kids from any attention. Sorry.
College: B.A., University of Kentucky (Telecommunications); M.S., University of Tennessee (Communications); Ph.D., Ohio University (Communications and Management) and J.D., Georgetown University Law Center
Favorite band or artist: The Who, Rolling Stones, Credence Clearwater and Poco. Definitely a classic rock guy.
Favorite movies: The Long Riders, Days of Heaven, Bound for Glory, Day for Night, Ronin
Favorite books: Look Homeward Angel, Oppenheimer, Night Comes to the Cumberland’s
Sports Team Preferences: Baltimore Ravens, St. Louis Cardinals, U. of Tennessee Vols and U. of Kentucky Basketball, the Yellowstone Quake in Cody, Wyoming (a minor league hockey team of which we own a portion)
Hobbies/Passions: Enjoying my kids and grandchildren, travel, horseback riding, skiing and reading.
Causes/Charities: Yellowstone National Park, the Bulembu Orphanage in Swaziland, the Anne Taylor Pre-school in Kenya, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the University of Tennessee, Bread for the City in D.C. and several others.
1. How did you get started in the business?
After some early music and concert promotion experience, I began working at my local radio station doing anything they needed. That was WAKY-AM in Louisville. I moved into TV fulltime while in College and worked in production and then news for the local CBS affiliate, WKYT-TV in Lexington. Moved on to WATE-AM/TV in Knoxville and the journey began.
2. How are things going with your radio group?
We are doing fine. Susan and I own 18 stations in small markets in Wyoming. Good people there and we have been fortunate to grow a two-station group that we took on trade for a commission on the sale of some Montana television stations and have grown it to be a pretty solid business. We also own a small percentage of a large player in the TV spectrum auction and hope that our investment turns out to be a good one.
3. What are the prospects for station trading in the radio sector between now and 2016?
There are deals being done but more in the 5.5 to 6.5 times range. The deals are mostly small markets but some action in larger markets. Some older owners are finally saying that it is time and are selling. A lot of folks remain interested in what will happen with the biggest players in the industry as they attempt to refinance or grow their platforms.
4. How about TV, especially in light of incentive auctions possible SSA/JSA rule changes?
The incentive auction will bring big rewards to a small number of television stations. The fight with the FCC by the NAB seems to be focused on the repacking. The NAB’s members want protection. The FCC is faced with a very difficult dual auction followed immediately by a repacking effort. No small task for the regulators.
In terms of the JSA/SSA rules, there is a challenged launched by NAB so we don’t know if those rules will stand. It is a huge jolt to the TV industry. Many companies are swapping stations, experimenting with fostering minority ownership. The Chairman appears to have an agenda, which is his prerogative, but the industry is reeling under some of the very quick changes he has imposed. The whole issue is causing some financing concerns for some lenders and owners.
5. What is it going to take to get deals financed – any changes on the horizon?
An increasing willingness of Sellers either to lower their expectations just a bit or take some unsecured paper (not always a good idea) or well-financed companies led by people like Duke Wright, Todd Schurz, Steven Price and others who continue to seek out opportunities and have the balance sheets to make the deals work. Of course, a steady increase in GDP and faith in the economy always helps.
6. What are the key legislative and regulatory issues that broadcasters need to focus on?
Perhaps more than ever, the NAB and the industry need to realize that policy and regulation must be fought every day at every station. Issues ranging from performance rights, to increased paperwork for political reporting, to use of drones, to the ownership issues are on the front burner. TV has even more at stake with the JSA/SSA rule change, the ownership cap and UHF discount, the drumbeat of regulation coming from the FCC. There are lots of issues and a big need to have more broadcasters involved through NABPAC and directly with their members of Congress.
7. Is there any question you’d like to answer that we forgot to ask?
Dream job growing up—playing left field for the St. Louis Cardinals and hitting .325 (never happened because of that curve ball problem.) Great job—Senior VP at the NAB.
Most enjoyment from this industry—seeing young broadcasters learn the ropes and move up or owners grow and develop strong companies and realize their success when they sell..
I also have taken time over the past 15 years to speak at 58 different universities for a day or two (and some of them multiple times). As part of my speaking tours, I always buy everyone pizzas and soft drinks and just talk about the business and how to get started. To date, I have purchased over 3,200 pizzas. A great investment.