Radio Q3 Revenue Nosedives

Despite some healthy increases in political, radio revenue plummeted to new depths in third quarter.

According to estimates released late Friday (Nov. 21) by the Radio Advertising Bureau, local and national on-air revenue dropped 11 percent to $4.2 billion. Even network radio, a segment which has defied the rest of the business the first half of the year, was down 3 percent to $285 million. Off-air revenue, including online advertising, remains positive, but that business too moderated from double digit increases to an increase of 5 percent to $458 million.

In total, radio spending was down 9 percent to nearly $5 billion for the quarter.
There’s little good news for radio’s core on-air business with local, accounting for about 80 percent of all revenue, down 10 percent in third quarter to $3.5 billion. National spot remained the weakest segment, down 12 percent to $767 million.

Through third quarter off-air revenue, while still a small segment of the business, has offset some of radio’s downward decline by about a percentage point or two. While national and local on-air revenue year-to-date is down 9 percent to $12.6 billion, off-air  was up 9 percent to $1.3 billion, surpassing network radio’s total. Year-to-date radio, including on-air and off-air, is down 7 percent to $14.8 billion.

Retail was one of the few solid categories for radio, up 2.5 percent year-to-date. But most of the dollars these days are going to network radio, where the category is up 25 percent for the first three quarters of the year.

Compared to 2004, political revenue was up 20.5 percent in third quarter and 43 percent year-to-date.