Up quarter, but no celebrating at Saga


Much of yesterday’s conference call was devoted to efforts to fix problems with Saga’s radio operations in Columbus, OH and Norfolk, VA, two of its largest markets. Executive VP and Group PD Steve Goldstein made a rare appearance on the call to detail personnel and programming changes that have taken place to get those key markets back on track. Despite those problem markets, Q3 revenues were up 1.2%, with radio up overall and TV down slightly. Those two big radio markets saw revenues down double digits, but that was countered by double digit gains in Ashville, Charlottesville, Des Moines, Ithaca, Springfield, IL and Keene, NH.

"I think we did pretty good. I’m not saying that I’m pleased," said CEO Ed Christian. He used the quarterly conversation with analysts to again emphasize his view that there is no longer a radio industry, but two industries – a bifurcated world in radio where major market stations have to deal with transactional business where most advertising is bought by advertising agencies as a numbers game and smaller markets where "we are in control of our destiny because we establish one-on-one relationships with our clients." Asked during Q&A, which Saga conducts via email, what can be done to deal with the problems facing big market stations, Christian said it will take an industry-wide consensus, not the efforts of a single company. But he had praise for both the RAB and NAB, saying they were reenergized under their new leadership.