Thursday, October 28, 2010

Radio station owners fall into two camps: Pick one!

The last two years in the radio business have not exactly been a walk in the park. Defaults, bankruptcies and receiverships have been rampant. A ton of equity vaporized in a sea of debt. It has not been a good time for station owners, especially those "faint of heart" or with highly leveraged balance sheets.

All of this has precipitated a lot of gloom and doom talk on Wall Street, in the industry trade publications, and in the convention hallways, suites, and bars.

From my perch, it seems that station owners fall into one of two broad categories:

1) Those who believe that radio's best days are behind it and that the end is near, or

2) Those who believe that the current low station prices present the buying opportunity of a lifetime. The business will recover and even thrive in the new environment.

Let's look a little more closely at each assumption:

1) Radio is dead. Long live Radio!

• Old media is over. New media wins.
• Radio has lost the kids.
• We're too little, too late to the digital party.
• Who needs a transmitter when you can stream?
• There are too many "cooler" new media options.
• Who buys radios when you can buy a smartphone or iPad for your information and entertainment?
• The Internet will soon occupy the dashboard.

2) Shopping at the bargain rack!

• Radio is still a high cash flow business.
• We can and will compete in the digital world.
• Fortunes were made in the last major downturn (think Lowry Mays).
• Regulatory relief may be the catalyst for reigniting the business (think elimination of the subcaps).
• Newspapers have lost their strangle-hold on retail business.
• There is no better megaphone for generating web traffic than radio.
• Radio still drives customers on Main Street.
• HD holds long-term promise.
• In the face of competition, radio has maintained its ubiquitous reach.


Pick a camp. Now.

Yeah, this sounds self-serving (after all, I am a broker). But, it is now time to place your bet. Here's my logic:

If you're in the "Radio is Dead" camp, the best thing you can do is cut your losses. With station values headed south, your station(s) will never be worth more than today's valuation. If you're under water with your bank, hand 'em the keys. Get out now while you can.

If you believe that you can buy good radio businesses from the bargain rack, then step up. You will buy solid businesses at historic lows. The seller's pain will be your gain. Get on board before prices take off. Build great clusters and hire from the incredible talent pool stranded on the beach. There is no better time than now.

It is time to select the scenario you believe will pan out in radio's future. To do otherwise is to leave your personal future to fate. Hold 'em or fold 'em. One school will be right. The other . . .

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

Media Services Group

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Inside Radio ( published a story called "Digital radio advocates spread the gospel to the wider internet world" this morning. They included a link to a report prepared by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). If you're in the streaming audio business, it is an important piece (and may be useful to your sales departments).

Click HERE to get the report.

Media Services Group

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Thoughts from the 2010 Radio Show

I'd like to share a few thoughts from last week's Radio Show. Though I have heard that overall attendance was up, there were fewer station owners on hand than usual. However, the FCC lawyers turned out in force, playing with a home court advantage.

The meeting was decidedly more upbeat than the last two years' shows (though that is not saying much considering the gloom and doom we've been through). Station revenues are up year-over-year and it has been a long time since we could make that claim.

On the station trading front, our suite activity was robust. There still aren't a lot of deals getting done, but at least the talking has resumed (after eighteen months of virtual silence). The missing ingredient continues to be bank financing. Despite renewed optimism about the prospects for the radio industry, there was little optimism that the bankers were returning any time soon. Trading will remain lackluster until the banks embrace the industry again.

Let's hope that next year's Radio Show in Chicago is a time for celebration.

Media Services Group