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2009 Shaping Up as Lowest Radio Revenue Since Late ’90s

But latest RAB figures 'show promise of an upswing'

The U.S. commercial radio sector has brought in $11.7 billion so far this year, through three quarters. That’s down 21% from a year ago.

Annualized, that projects out to a total year for U.S. commercial radio of $15.6 billion, which would be the lowest in 11 years, according to Radio World records of RAB data — though the holiday season and its presumably retail-oriented advertising climate remain in front of us and a strong fourth quarter could change that picture somewhat.

The latest quarterly revenue figures, issued Friday, appear to give the Radio Advertising Bureau some reason for hope.

“As the quarter came to a close, it showed promise of an upswing in advertising spend by marketers,” stated President/CEO Jeff Haley.

The organization says that throughout the year, “radio has seen narrowing gaps between previous year comps with each successive quarter. Q3 ’09 total revenue stands at 84% of the Q3 ’08 level — significantly improving on Q1’s 76%.”

RAB also says that although there have been economic obstacles, “stations supported and improved upon their brand’s online extensions — Web sites, online streaming, mobile applications — providing content and programming that addressed listeners’ demands therefore providing advertisers with additional marketing options.” This was a big theme at the fall’s NAB Radio Show, as RW has reported.

Nevertheless, the sales picture remains one of negative numbers. Revenue in the third quarter was off 16% compared to the same time last year, even including an increase of 14% from radio Web sites, streaming and HD Radio channels. The big piece of the pie, local revenue, fell 19% in the quarter.

RAB’s numbers are based on data from Miller, Kaplan, Arase & Co.

A detailed look at performance within various categories is here (PDF).