Apocalypse Now? David Bray explores AM/FM’s silver lining amid a revenue crunch

David Bray is President of Bray & Partners Communications.

Feel free to forward questions and inquiries:

Phone:  (416)431-5792 

E-mail: davidbray@brayandpartners.com 

Web sites: brayandpartners.com, davidbray.ca

 

I am rarely at a loss for words. But…in my over 35 years of working with radio, I have never seen anything comparable to this crisis. The Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on the radio industry. We still have no idea how long this experience will last or what the full cumulative impact will ultimately be. 

Stations have anecdotally reported up to an 80% decline in revenue. No precedent. Some clients have moved bookings forward without any guarantees. Some have opted to cancel while waiting on an uncertain future. It’s important to note that many radio salespeople work on 100% commission. Of course, with the majority of retail businesses closed, there is little to advertise. Some of these reps have been laid off, while others have avoided that fate for now and are being guaranteed 75% of their regular commission levels for the next three months. After that? My heart goes out to those working away in a business we love while trying to keep a positive attitude.

Aside from revenue, tuning levels are fairly good. 95% of weekly reach in February was retained in March. Conversely, the average time spent listening per day A18+ is greater in March than the two months that preceded it. Time spent with radio in March over February has shown growth in both the A18-24 and A25-34 demos. News/Talk stations have seen increases in tuning. From Feb. 24 to Mar. 30, at home listening to AM/FM increased 29%. Of course, we sacrifice some in-car tuning. Lastly, streaming of AM/FM stations has amounted to 19% of tuning for A25-54, an increase of 72% over the January level of 11%.

In the spirit of searching for another silver lining, certain facts can be cited. For example, radio reaches 84% of A18+ using an online restaurant delivery service. Still, such facts won’t make up for what we’ve lost. I admire the tenacity and sensitivity of the reps working with clients in difficult times, armed with the knowledge that these same clients will be back when the time is right. As someone very wise told me years ago, “it is six times easier to hold onto a client you have than it is to win over a new one.” Relationships are everything. Even from one broadcast group to another, there is shared sense of purpose.

It has been tough up until now. Of course, things are changing every day. Apocalypse Now may be very different tomorrow. Stay tuned.

 


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