The good news is that it will be easy to score a better revenue performance than radio scored during the month of January 2008 as reported by the Radio Advertising Bureau and Miller Kaplan Arase & Co. The bad news is we have to talk about January 2008. Total revenues for the month went 6% in the wrong direction. The ugliness breaks down like this: Local was down -5%, national was down -13%, for a combined spot drop of -7%. This total was mitigated by another double-digit gain in the non-spot category, which picked up 11%, and shaved one point of the monthly loss to the aforementioned -6% bottom line.
Unfortunately, the crystal ball readers on Wall Street are seeing more of the same stretching out month after month into the future. Anthony J. DiClemente at Lehman Brothers is looking for red ink ranging from -2% to -5% all the way to October, when he finally predicts a modest 1% gain. He expects that to be followed by a flat November, more red ink in December and a -2.6% finale.
Marci Ryvicker at Wachovia did not mince word, calling the performance "a horrible start to the new year." She at least sprinkled a little salt on this, but in the end, it was very little. "While Q1 is typically the lightest quarter of the radio year and has not historically been a great indicator of the full year, we tend to think that such a significant decline does not bode well for 2008."
RBR/TVBR observation: We’re reminded of an old Woody Allen joke back when he was doing stand-up. He said that typically an audience liked for the artist to finish up a performance with a positive comment. "I don’t have a positive comment," he admitted. "Would you settle for two negatives?" We don’t have much of a positive comment either, but we do note a silver lining in the ever-increasing non-spot category. Most of that cash is internet-based, and there are few better ways to drive internet traffic than via broadcast ads. We’d try to use that non-spot category any way we can to boost the bread-and-butter traditional spot numbers.