You’ve probably heard a lot of talk about softness in auto advertising as far as the television industry is concerned, but there was none of that yesterday in the Q4 results conference call by Barrington Broadcasting. CEO Jim Yager said automotive remains a strong ad sector for the company in Q1 after gaining in 2007. “Despite everything we’ve read, and you’ve probably read about automotive being down, there has been some gigantic changes in the way automotive is bought on the local level,” he told the Wall Street analysts.
Barrington was up 11.74% in the automotive category for 2007. COO Chris Cornelius credited a “gigantic shift in momentum from national automotive and the big dealer groups and factory money, which were, for the most part, down all of ’07 to the local automotive groups where we can actually sit across the table from decision makers and have a conversation about figuring out ways to move iron off their lot.” Cornelius is also encouraged by the decision in late 2007 by General Motors to shift its local dealer group strategy from central planning and execution to a regional basis. He expects to see an impact from that in Q2.
Like most TV groups, Barrington Broadcasting saw a revenue decrease in Q4 without the benefit of 9.9 million in political advertising the previous year, so gross revenues fell 17.6% to 35.4 million. However, revenues were up otherwise, with national gaining 1.4% and local jumping 12.2%. Barrington executives said the company will continue to focus on bringing in new business at the local level by targeting newspaper, cable and yellow pages advertisers who do not currently use local TV. The company is also focused on its Internet initiatives, where revenues were up 40% in 2007.
RBR/TVBR observation: We’ve said it before, but the key to growth is feet on the street. TV operators who are serious about growing local sales are reaping results – and having to worry less about national trends. We found it interesting that Chris Cornelius said some Barrington stations have divided their local sales staffs in two. One team deals with agencies on transactional business and the other is out dealing face-to-face with local businesspeople to sell them on how the station can help them get more customers through the door.