Station operating income was down 11% in the quarter to $60.3 million.
Digging further into the numbers, CEO David Field told analysts and investors on his quarterly conference call that the format changes accounted for four of the percentage points and political for three, so it was basically a flat quarter for core business.
“2011 was a year of extensive strategic investment for Entercom, during which we launched four new station brands and established FM simulcasts of three core AM stations in San Francisco, Boston, Sacramento, Kansas City and Buffalo,” said Field in a statement ahead of the call with analysts. “These moves significantly enhance our future growth potential and are expected to contribute positively to revenue growth commencing in second quarter. However, they diluted our fourth quarter revenues by 4%. Excluding political and stations reformatted in 2011, fourth quarter revenues were flat. We are optimistic on 2012 growth, bolstered by improving economic conditions, accelerating performance from newly reformatted stations, and political advertising. And we are highly encouraged by strong industry fundamentals as innovation accelerates, audience usage trends remain outstanding, and radio remains the most cost-effective major advertising medium.”
Look for improvement in 2012, particularly once Q2 gets here and the company laps most of the format changes. And, of course, political will be back this year.
At this point, Field said, Q1 is pacing down in the low single digits. But excluding the format changes, the quarter is pacing flat.
One other note from the call. Field was asked if Entercom would be interested in putting its stations on Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio streaming platform as some other groups have done. It all depends on the deal, he said.