Group owner Entercom’s third quarter investor report delivered on Nov. 6 wasn’t the ad revenue disaster of the previous quarter, but it shows any kind of robust economic recovery will take time.
Entercom said its third quarter net revenue was $268.5 million. That’s an increase of 53% compared to the second quarter of 2020. However, that is a dip of 30% when compared to the third quarter of 2019, according to the financial report.
One promising sign for the publicly traded broadcaster is its monthly revenue improvement trend when compared to one year ago: July was down 36%, August down 32% and September was down 25%.
Entercom has been aggressively trimming costs since the beginning of the pandemic and cut station expenses in the quarter by 16% compared to 2019 totals to $228.1 million. That cost-cutting couldn’t help Entercom stem an operating loss of nearly $300,000 for the third quarter compared to income of $79.5 million in Q3 2019.
Entercom’s President and CEO David Field said during the investor call on Friday the company will continue to focus on reducing costs to be better positioned for economic recovery post-pandemic. “For example, we are planning to reduce the size of our studio locations significantly to reflect expected post-pandemic work structures. And anticipate significantly reducing the $70 million we currently spend on studio leases over the next several years.”
He continued: “In addition, we have significantly reduced the staffing and scope of our promotions department and discontinued some of the legacy practices, which have diminishing value given the rapid adoption of our digital, social and other technologies.”
Booked fourth quarter ad revenue for Entercom, Field says, already exceeds the $268.6 million in revenue from the third quarter. Some of that is attributable to political advertising which “rose significantly in October,” he said.
Friday’s financial disclosure shows the broadcaster’s digital and podcasting revenues were up 41% year-over-year to $47.3 million in the third quarter. Field said: “We continue to build and transform Entercom into a leading multiplatform audio content and entertainment company with scaled audience reach, robust data, analytics and attribution capabilities.”
Field said podcast downloads was up 27% compared to Q3 2019. The company has just over 26 million monthly average podcast users.
The broadcaster’s net debt as of Sept. 30 was $1.63 billion, which is down $66 million from the end of 2019, according to the company’s filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Much of the erosion in ad spending in 2020 brought on by the pandemic can be attributed to two factors, less volume and lower pricing, Field said. “There’s no question we took a hit on pricing. We did a lot of things to support our local advertisers who were hurting. But inventory has tightened up and we have seen an improvement in pricing.”
Coinciding with Friday’s investor call Entercom announced a station swap with Urban One that gives Entercom FM stations in Philadelphia and St. Louis and an AM station in Washington. In exchange Urban One will gain Entercom’s cluster of radio stations in Charlotte, N.C. The deal was an “even trade with no other financial considerations,” Field said on Friday’s investor call.
In addition, Entercom recently announced a partnership with FanDuel designating the sports betting company as “the official sportsbook partner” of Entercom. Field called the agreement “the largest advertising deal in radio history,” without specifying any dollar figures.
“Unfortunately, we are not at liberty to share those (numbers), but I will say that FanDuel will be one of our largest advertisers,” Field said. “And we expect the amount of their advertising to grow over the six years of the deal as we see more states open to legalize mobile gambling, including New York.”