Analyst Marci Ryvicker of Wells Fargo Securities said the theme of the NAB meeting in Las Vegas was “Broadcasters are happy people,” and the fact that she finds revenue pacings to be “on fire” is a good reason for more than a few happy faces.
Ryvicker said television pacings are approaching gains in the 20% range, and that radio pacings are positive in the high-single-digit, low-double-digit range. These numbers, of course, can vary greatly by market. She says national is leading the charge, particularly in large markets, and local is doing “okay.”
Ryvicker noted that the number one corporate goal these days is paying down debt, but said that inclinations toward investing money in acquisitions appears to be picking up steam, particularly on the radio side. Still in short supply: reasonable asking prices.
Retransmission consent, she speculates, will remain a market-driven proposition, but Ryvicker warns broadcasters to tread carefully as this topic is broached in Washington. She believes most are willing to cut networks in on retrans fees, in exchange for better programming (something she is not sure the networks can deliver).
The big unknown for radio, she noted, was the Performance Rights Act. The fear is that it will attach itself like a barnacle to another bill. On the other hand, the issue may be solved via a revenue neutral compromise, such as giving performance interests a piece of the pie currently going exclusively to composers.
RBR-TVBR observation: We’ve gotten used to hearing the phrase “double-digits” the last few years, but not in a good way – printing it in black instead of red is definitely a good thing.
Of course, ridiculously easy comps will do that for you. However, we haven’t seen easy comps play in our favor for a long time, so we’d be happy with low single digit gains at this point. Double-digits, even if they are inflated by prior horrors, will hasten the return of broadcasting’s real dollar income back to its prior high water mark.