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Radio’s $21.3 Billion Disappointment

“Off-air” revenue is now worth almost $1.7 billion to radio.

Now our radio industry moguls can fill in the last blank and close the books on a disappointing 2007.

U.S. commercial radio revenue overall fell 2% last year compared to the year before, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau; that’s the biggest slump since the year of 9/11. The big category of local radio ad revenue was also down 2%, while national radio was off 6%, network was up 4%.

By contrast, “off-air” revenue, what the RAB used to call non-spot, was up 10% for the year and 12% in the most recent quarter. Expect even more emphasis among analysts and managers in months to come about the possibilities of this sector, which is now worth almost $1.7 billion to radio and has been a “meteoric” spot of growth, as RAB put it.

“As radio broadcasters expand their online components and extend interactive and on-demand options, radio will continue to deliver a seamless audio experience across numerous platforms to connect with consumers where and when they want,” said RAB honcho Jeff Haley. He emphasizes the “nimbleness of the expanded radio space” as a benefit to marketers.

Leading growth categories for the year were health care, communications/cell/utilities and concerts/theaters/movies.

Overall U.S. radio revenue is estimated at $21.31 billion, and $15.1 billion of that comes from local.