Optimism as NAB Radio Show opens in Philadelphia


It’s hardly a robust advertising market yet for radio, but there are indications that things are less bad and maybe turning around. That optimism has been reflected by the way radio stock prices have moved up on Wall Street. But there are still things to worry about.

When this event last convened in Philadelphia, Eddie Fritts was still President of the NAB. David Rehr has since come and gone. Now we’re looking forward to hearing from new President Gordon Smith about where he wants to take the organization.

More importantly, since we were here in 2005, broadcasters were among the first canaries in the coal mine to feel the onset of what became a national, then global recession. Now, at long last we are seeing signs that the worst is behind us.

That’s good news for those radio groups that have survived the horrible downturn. But then, we don’t know yet who has survived. Among the industry giants, Citadel faces a payment deadline in January that it has no ability yet to meet and Clear Channel has been in a dance with its lenders as it tries to stay in compliance with its covenants until the recovery really takes hold.

But we’re hearing that the industry appears to have hit bottom and is showing some early signs of recovery. Check out today’s comments from many radio pros. 

Wall Street appears to be convinced that we really do see the light at the end of the tunnel. The RBR Radio Index is up over 280% from the dismal level where it began the year. Most radio stocks are still deep in penny stock territory, and thus have little analyst coverage on Wall Street, but investors who know the business have been coming back. Let’s hope they are right about where business is heading.

So, broadcasters will come to Philadelphia this week to learn about new technologies, social media, how to expand their established brands, and how to grow with a still-shaky economy. With any luck, this will be the last convention of economic gloom.

RBR/TVBR observation: Remember the “good old days” when group owners jostled to have the big deal to announce at the big show? How times have changed.

The big deal this week was a single station. It was in a big market, Boston. But it was not a big buy by a commercial broadcaster. Rather, it was another case of a commercial station moving to the non-commercial world.