Radio stumbles into major pothole


Everybody thought September would be another slow month. But not this slow. The analysts over at CL King & Associates called the radio industry’s -7% revenue performance for the month of September, as reported by RAB, "shocking." It seems that mid-markets are beginning to emulate large-market softness. What makes it even worse is that September 2006 was down 3% itself. The -7% was comprised of a -7% drop in local business, and an even steeper -9% loss in national (for -8% combined), leavened slightly by a +9% gain in non-spot revenue, bringing the total performance to the month back to -7%. CL King’s Jim Boyle noted that his company had been looking for a -3% month and other Wall Street analysts had been expecting a slight -1% drop. He said the top 25 markets were down -4%, with the next tier dropping -6%. Smaller markets (#76 and smaller), thus far somewhat inoculated from radio’s large-market sluggishness, seem to be succumbing to general economic woes, coming in with a scant +1% gain in September. Boyle is looking for a -3% Q3, and continued sluggishness in Q4 as the business heads for an 8th consecutive disappointing year.

RBR/TVBR observation: On the plus side, the comps will be even easier next September. Boyle seems convinced that too many radio companies have been paring back programming and promotional expenses for year upon year. We thought about it, and we can’t remember the last time a civilian in our market told us that we really had to check out what was happening at any single radio station. Nor have any of our friends who know what we do for a living asked us anything about radio. Shouldn’t some bold programmer be leaping into that void? Shouldn’t most of the programmers be fighting to fill it? Shouldn’t they have kept it from existing in the first place?