Religious and conservative talk specialist Salem Communications reported that Q4 revenues declined 7.9% to $50.8 million. And while some other radio companies have been indicating that Q1 will be up, Salem’s guidance to Wall Street is that revenues will be down 1-3% from the $48.7 million of a year ago.
Asked about that guidance, Salem officials noted that the company’s revenues had been down less than most general market radio companies for all of 2009, 10.5%, due to the stability of its annual block programming contracts. As for companies reporting Q1 pacing positive, for Salem’s markets CEO Ed Atsinger said the Miller Kaplan tallies for January were flat. Salem is reporting that January revenues were down 3% and February 2%, so some sequential improvement.
“We just want to be very cautious,” Atsinger said of his company’s guidance. “I tend to be an optimist; I hope for the best and try to plan for the worst.”
“In fairness, I think it would be accurate to say that when you have the recovery we’ll do well, but we may not move up as aggressively as some of our general market peers. But as you well know, when it starts going down, we don’t move down nearly as fast as they do. There is this stability that it there – but it is a stability both ways,” Atsinger told analysts.
Salem officials said the company’s timing was good in refinancing its debt in December – and it has moved out any debt maturities well into the future.
Looking at details of Q4, net broadcast revenues were down 8.8% to $43.3 million. Station operating income was off 6.6% to $17.1 million.
Non-broadcast revenues were down 2.1% to $7.5 million and operating income dropped 1.2% to $1.3 million. However, Internet revenues are recovering more quickly for Salem than for its radio operations, with Internet revenues in positive territory for both January and February.