With political comps in the rear-view mirror, Cumulus Media CEO Lew Dickey told analysts that business is picking up. Q1 is almost done, but pacings are looking pretty in Q2, so the results just announced for the final quarter of 2011 could be the last down quarter for revenues for a while.
“Looking ahead into Q1 2012, though business started off somewhat sluggish in the quarter – which is really the slowdown that we saw from Thanksgiving through the end of the year – things are picking up,” Dickey said in his quarterly conference call. “We’ve seen a steady build in our packing since then and we anticipate finishing the quarter roughly flat on the top line. We’re pacing about two-tenths of a percent [up] as we sit here today with just a couple of weeks left.” In addition, Dickey noted, the company is expecting $11-13 million in merger synergies in Q1, on top of the $10.5 million realized in Q4. So he’s expecting double-digit EBITDA growth in Q1.
“The second quarter is also steadily building. We’re now pacing up 3% at this point and picking up some momentum,” the CEO said. So far, though, Dickey said, the company has not seen substantial political spending, but he expects the Super-PACs to start advertising once the Republican presidential candidate is chosen and for political spending in general to pick up in Q3 and Q4.
Dickey noted that Cumulus’ Sweet Jack daily deals product will launch on Clear Channel stations beginning May 1st. He’s also looking forward to being able to sell more digital streaming inventory with the Cumulus stations being added to Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio platform. He told analysts that’s 30 million new units to sell (inserting spots in the streams to replace over-the-air spots – inventory that has not been monetized with Cumulus streaming its stations on its own digital platform.
RBR-TVBR observation: Those 30 million digital units won’t claim a billion bucks like the over-the-air 30 million did last year – at least not anytime soon. But it’s all new money – and a million here, a million there eventually adds up.