Saturday, April 13, 2013

NAB Show 2013 - From a media broker's perspective


With the bags finally unpacked and the body back on Eastern time, I would like to share some thoughts from the 2013 NAB Show in Las Vegas.  My observations are from the perspective of a media broker specializing in the purchase and sale of radio/TV stations and communications towers.  No doubt that this view of the convention differs from those of  a broadcaster.  For one thing, we spent most of the time sequestered in meetings in our suite at the Encore and very little of it at the Convention Center.

This year, I attended the Rain Internet radio conference on Sunday, at least the first half of it (our Media Services Group meeting filled the afternoon).  Kurt Hanson does a good job with the conference.  In particular, I enjoyed the dashboard discussion.  Paul Jacobs was on that panel; you can check out his report HERE.  While the dollars are still relatively small, the growth rate is not.  I will plan to attend Rain again in the coming years.

My partners and I convened on Sunday afternoon to discuss the state of the broadcasting industry, what is happening in the media brokerage business, and where pricing multiples are for broadcast properties.  For radio, broadcast cash flow multiples are mostly in the 6x to 7x range, with "outliers" in the 5s on the low side and as high as 8x for the upper limit.  TV deals are bringing higher multiples than radio.  Higher retrans fees, a blow-out political year in 2012, and spectrum auction speculation appear to be fueling the TV appetites.  Throughout the convention, there was a good deal of discussion about the TV spectrum auction, and the NAB featured a panel on the subject.

We expected robust activity in our suite and we were not disappointed (most of our meetings are set up in advance).  The suite was busy all day on Monday and Tuesday and we even had a few meetings on Wednesday morning.  History has shown that such activity is a good predictor of trading action in the coming months.

There is no shortage of station buyers and sellers; all we are missing are the lenders.  Though slowly but surely, they too are returning.  It is worth noting that GE threw a party at the Show this year after being absent for the last three or four years.  The broadcast lending that is going on appears to be in the 3x to 4x range.

Several of us attended Erwin Krasnow's (Garvey Schubert Barer) annual breakfast Monday morning at the Las Vegas Country Club.  Thanks, as always, to Erwin, John Pelkey and Melodie Virtue for their hospitality.  Matthew Berry, Chief of Staff for FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, made an interesting presentation.  Among other things, he addressed Commissioner Pai's interest in saving AM radio.  That too received a lot of "buzz" throughout the week, particularly following the Commissioner's panel on the subject.

In addition to GE's party mentioned above, Wiley Rein also threw a nice reception.  As always, it was well attended by the broadcasters, brokers and bankers.

No NAB Show is complete without attending the Broadcasters Foundation breakfast on Wednesday morning.  It is a great organization doing wonderful work:

"The mission of the Broadcasters Foundation of America is to improve the quality of life and maintain the personal dignity of men and women in the radio and television broadcast profession who find themselves in acute need."

Phil Lombardo and Jim Thompson hosted the event, awarding the Ward L. Quaal Leadership Awards to:

  • Skip Finley
  • David Kennedy
  • Bob Schmidt
  • Alan Frank
  • Charles Osgood
  • Mike McKinnon

The Lowry Mays Excellence in Broadcasting Award went to Stanley S. Hubbard.

That's my story from Las Vegas.  See you at the Radio Show this fall in Orlando!

George
Media Services Group