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Radio Station Transactions Seek Their Lows

The total value of U.S. station sales in Q1 is down even compared to the slowness of 2008

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It seems safe to say that radio station acquisitions are not the darling of people with money right now.

For the first time in recent memory, the total value of radio station sale transactions in a given year has fallen below $1 billion, and station transactions remain far below their level of the late 1990s, according to one source.

BIA Advisory Services reports that 769 stations sold in 2008 for an estimated $700 million total. It noted that in 2002, the same number of stations sold and the value at that time was $5.4 billion.

The new year is pacing even lower; through March, 164 stations sold for a total of a mere $46 million.

Ten years ago, in 1999 in the immediate post-deregulation years, 1,705 stations were sold for $28.5 billion.

“Cornered by weak radio station sales in the first quarter of 2009 and all of 2008, the radio industry’s sole opportunity for valuation growth relies on the ability to transform itself into a blended operation of broadcasting, online and other activities,” BIA stated in its analysis. The numbers are part of its quarterly Investing in Radio Market Report.

“Stations with more than just over-the-air offerings provide the foundation for appraisals that raises its value above their competitors not involved in these other activities.”

“Also of note, 2008 was the first year since the late 1980s where the number of stations sold in metro markets (383) was virtually equal to that of unrated markets (386).”

The chart shows the amount of radio station transaction volume and the number of stations sold from 1999 through 2008 (without stations involved in the Clear Channel privatization).