Fisher CEO upbeat on radio changes


Radio revenues were down 38% in 2009 for Fisher Communications, but the company’s three-station cluster in Seattle has undergone a major retooling and CEO Colleen Brown is looking for better things in 2010.

That 2009 revenue figure – down 38% to $22.8 million – is less ugly if you extract the 2008 revenues from the company’s unprofitable deal to broadcast the Seattle Mariners, which it chose not to renew. Excluding that sports revenue, 2009 was down 19% from 2008. The Mariners games, by the way, brought in $8.7 million of revenues in 2008, while costing KOMO-AM $16 million.

In fact, broadcast cash flow (BCF) from the radio division turned positive in 2009 to the tune of $4.1 million from a BCF loss of $0.2 million in 2008. Nearly all of the radio revenues come from the three stations in Seattle, although Fisher still owns five stations in Great Falls, MT – the only part of its former regional radio group that it didn’t sell off a few years back.

So 2009 was a year of big changes for the Seattle radio cluster and Brown had positive things to say about radio in her quarterly conference call with Wall Street analysts, telling them that the company had benefitted from “structural and format changes” in Fisher’s radio business.

“In 2009 we began simulcasting KOMO Newsradio on an FM station [South Sound Broadcasting’s 97.7 signal now called KOMO-FM] as well as the AM station, which expanded the audience and advertiser reach of our popular all-news station in Seattle. Additionally, Star 101.5 radio station [KPLZ-FM] became the second-ranked station in the Seattle market, compared to its number eight rank a year ago. And recently we re-branded our conservative talk radio station, KVI, as ‘Freedom 570,’ with an increased focus on local content. And our radio improvement is paying off with higher shares of the market’s advertising revenue,” Brown said of Fisher’s radio division.