Dead Air: Radio Revenue Drops 7% in Q1

The radio business just can’t seem to catch a break. On-air revenue for first quarter fell 7 percent to $3.8 billion. Even factoring in network radio revenue, which grew 7 percent to $274 million and off-air revenue (which includes online), up 15 percent to $388 million, revenue was down 5 percent to just under $4.5 billion.

Local spot, radio’s bread and butter, slid 6 percent to $3.1 billion. In stark contrast to network radio, which is gaining favor among advertisers for its ability to split copy down to the station level, national spot is hurting, down 11 percent to $649 million. Network radio benefited from a 157 percent increase in spending by Wal-Mart and a 10 percent jump in spending by Home Depot.

Looking for a silver lining, the Radio Advertising Bureau, which released the revenue estimates Thursday (May 22), pointed to the number of new and returning advertisers that increased budgets in the quarter, including insurance companies (24 percent), specialty retail (20 percent), professional services (20 percent) and beverages (12 percent).

But whether those categories can offset decreases in automotive and communications categories and lead a turn around in the industry remains to be seen.

The RAB’s figures are based on a pool of more than 100 markets as reported by accounting firm Miller, Kaplan, Arase & Co.