Tough times took Clear Channel down double digits


Q4 revenues dropped 14% to $1.6 billion at CC Media Holdings, the parent company of Clear Channel Communications. The company’s loss for the quarter was a whopping $4.99 billion, although that was largely due to a non-cash impairment charge of $5.3 billion. Also, the once-invulnerable Clear Channel Outdoor had an even worse quarter than Clear Channel Radio.

“Although CC Media Holdings revenues were down in 2008, our radio and outdoor businesses performed well compared to their sectors. These are challenging times which have taken their toll on many of our advertisers. However, macroeconomic conditions will continue to present a stark reality where disciplined focus on working with our advertising partners, cost containment and the flexibility to adjust to change are essential. Most importantly, we are so appreciative of the tremendous efforts expended by our employees to meet the demands of these difficult times,” said CEO Mark Mays.

Operating income before depreciation & amortization, non-cash compensation expense and other non-operating expenses (OIBDAN) in Q4 plunged 50% to $309 million. Outdoor had an even tougher quarter than radio, with outdoor ad revenues down 16% to $785.5 million and radio down 13% to $788.8 million. Outdoor OIBDAN fell 49% to $161.5 million and radio OIBDAN dropped 40% to $203.8 million.

For all of 2008, CC Media Holdings saw revenues decline 3% to $6.7 billion. OIBDAN dropped 21% to $1.8 billion. Radio revenues were down 7% to $3.3 billion and OIBDAN was off 17% to $1.2 billion. Outdoor revenues were flat at $3.3 billion and OIBDAN dropped 20% to $811.4 million.

CC Media/Clear Channel no longer conducts conference calls with Wall Street analysts. Here is what the company had to say about its radio division performance for 2008:

“For 2008, the Company’s radio broadcasting revenue declined approximately $264.7 million compared to 2007, with approximately 43% of the decline occurring during the fourth quarter. Local revenues were down $205.6 million in 2008 compared to 2007. National revenues declined as well. Both local and national revenues were down as a result of overall weakness in advertising. The Company’s radio revenue experienced declines across advertising categories including automotive, retail and entertainment advertising categories. For the year ended December 31, 2008, total minutes sold and average minute rate declined compared to 2007.

Operating expenses declined approximately $11.1 million in 2008. The decline was attributable to a decrease in programming expenses in the Company’s radio markets, a decrease in expenses from reduced marketing and promotional expenses and a decline in commission expenses associated with the revenue decline. Partially offsetting the decline was an increase in severance of approximately $32.6 million, an increase in bad debt expense of approximately $17.3 million and an increase in programming expenses associated with the Company’s national syndication business. The increase in programming expenses in the Company’s national syndication business was mostly related to contract talent payments.”

The company did not provide any guidance on what to expect in 2009.