We dust off our crystal balls, spread our tea leaves and consult our all-seeing, all-knowing Morse-code tapping click beetle for a glimpse into what’s in store for 2008. It is strongly recommended that these lucky 13 predictions NOT be used for capex or station portfolio acquisitions, stock market selections, or any form of personal or government-sponsored wagering. However, they may be safely printed out and used to line a parakeet cage.
Off we go then:
1. With the strong possibility of a Democratic administration moving in come January 2009, and in any case a new President, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin will make sure his resume is in order. We expect to see an acting Chairman at the FCC before the official hand over of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
2. Whether or not it receives regulatory approval, the XM/Sirius merger will wind up in court.
3. The FCC’s decision to ease restrictions on broadcast/newspaper crossownership in the top 20 markets will be hung up in Congress and the courts all year long.
4. At least for 2008, the lack of closure on easing crossownership restrictions won’t much matter, since few will be looking to initiate such a deal.
5. Cumulus Media will close its going private deal, one way or another.
6. Clear Channel Communications will close its going private deal. The question is, will it be to Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital or to Sam Zell and Randy Michaels?
7. Political advertising spending records will be broken.
8. A new broadcaster will sell an IPO. We find this hard to believe, but we keep hearing it from Wall Street.
9. Local TV LLC will add a sister, Local Radio LLC.
10. Internet revenues will grow strongly for broadcasters, while the core spot business (excluding political) remains sluggish. (You don’t need a crystal ball for this one!)
11. Hearst Corporation will take its ownership of Hearst-Argyle Television beyond 80% and then make a stronger bid to pick up the rest and take the TV company private.
12. NAB will lay to rest any concerns about an uninformed public with a massive DTV education campaign.
13. Retail electronics outlets will have a banner year as Americans stock up on digital television sets.