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Clear Channel Retains Its No. 1 Ranking in Radio

Fratrik expects biggest groups will see 16% annual growth in online revenue in next few years

With $2.3 billion in estimated revenue in 2009, Clear Channel Communications remains the largest U.S. commercial radio company.

According to the latest rankings from BIA/Kelsey, the big broadcast company brought in that much from 847 stations in 153 markets. Thus Clear Channel remains not only the top company by revenue, but the largest by station count.

No. 2 in revenue is CBS with about $1.3 billion from 130 stations in 29 markets. CBS, with its big-market stations, again outearned No. 3 Citadel/ABC and No. 4 Cumulus combined, though each of those companies has more stations and markets than CBS does.

In analyzing the BIA numbers, VP Mark Fratrik wrote on the company’s blog: “We couldn’t be happier at BIA/Kelsey to see that CBS Radio’s revenue was up 9% in the first quarter. … We’ve been somewhat optimistic about the radio industry for 2010 and this first quarter growth exceeds what we were expecting.” He cites economic improvement, radio’s efforts online and the fact that “radio is a medium advertisers will continue to return to.”

He also acknowledged that 2009 offers easy comparisons with its low revenues. “The large percentage of revenue increases we see at CBS, and will certainly see from other radio owners, has to be taken with a grain of salt — 2009 was such a bad year, any increase in revenues will show large percentage jumps.”

BIA expects over-the-air ad revenues will grow 3–4% in the short term future — “not a bad thing, just not especially strong growth.”

Fratrik concludes that the most growth in revenues in the next few years will be through digital/online opportunities, where he expects an average annual increase of 16% in revenues.

He also noted that there has been little change in the names on the list over the past several years.