We got 2008 about half right – now for 2009


Hey, nobody said our crystal ball was without clouds. We peered into its misty interior about this time last year and jotted down what we thought we saw, and the result was a batting average of somewhere around .500. That’s good enough to guarantee instant enshrinement in baseball’s Hall of Fame, but if we posted the same .500 on our first grade exam results, we’d be looking at repeating that grade again. Since we aren’t about to do that, we’ll be content to audaciously repeat our attempt at prognostication again for 2009. Read them, if you dare.

* The DTV transition will be a huge story for two weeks, with glitches capturing the headlines, but will calm down as most left-behind consumers restore their television service one way or another.

* Lots of daily newspapers will be put up for sale. Most will not find buyers. In the end, a few will simply shut down.

* Many broadcasting companies will trip on loan covenants in 2009. Most, though, will get waivers or renegotiated terms.

* There will be no attempt in Congress or at the FCC to restore the Fairness Doctrine.

* Broadcasting will become an afterthought as the Obama FCC focuses on broadband and net neutrality issues.

* Broadcasters, on the other hand, will have their hands full staving off reinstatement of long-discarded FCC localism initiatives, possibly resulting in the NAB taking the issue to the courts.

* The Radio Advertising Bureau/Miller Kaplan Arase monthly radio revenue report will finally get into the black for a month on top of the less-than-challenging comps of 2008.

* Whole station groups will merge as a way to clean up their balance sheets in an environment where financing for outright purchases is hard to find.

* Syndication will have a growth year in both radio and TV as stations look to cut costs by taking more syndicated programming.

* There will be a great hullabaloo in at least one market where a strong and stable TV station moves to add a major network affiliation for a multicast channel at the expense of a weaker in-market station.

* We will see many more retransmission consent fights, but those that reach the point of stations being pulled from a cable or satellite operator will be settled quickly in the face of viewer complaints to their subscription video providers.

* Yes, there will be more Chapter 11 filings and state court receiverships that in most years, but new owners will be found for all stations in financial dire straits.

* Nielsen will announce plans to take its US radio ratings service beyond the initial 51 markets. (We really didn’t need a crystal ball for this one.)

* HD Radio licenses will not be renewed with many broadcasters.

* Sirius XM will handle its $194 million refinancing due in February, but after that the financial picture gets dicier. Our best guess is that satellite radio will still survive as 2009 comes to a close, but barely, with a Chapter 11 filing a real possibility.

* Sirius-XM will come up with an ad-supported model to avoid bankruptcy.

* Radio will strengthen its trend for calling itself WXXX.COM, instead of FM, AM or HD.

* Cable TV MSOs will get a huge boost in business from the analog shutoff.

* The FCC’s December 2007 attempt to loosen broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership rules for the top 20 DMAs will still be in dispute and will not have force.

* Congress will reinstate the minority tax certificate to encourage broadcast ownership diversity.