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Better Times Ahead for Radio, Experts Say

Despite mostly flat radio revenues for the second quarter, executives who buy or sell advertising or monitor the business see growth in the months ahead.

On a year-to-date basis, the Radio Advertising Bureau reports local sales figures (80% of all radio revenue) up 1%, January through May, while national dollars climbed 5%.

Third-quarter projections, however, are more robust, with one Interep source describing national radio pacing as up 11%-13%.

Sue Johenning, EVP/director of local broadcast, Initiative Media, agrees. "Those are the same numbers we're hearing. National radio has picked up considerably in the last few weeks." Retail and automotive are up, she notes, adding, "We been told Chrysler has made a huge buy for third quarter, plus, in August, you've got 'Back to School' sales kicking in."

Other national categories looking especially strong are airlines, travel, fast food, movies, financial services and broadcast/cable TV.

Tim Wallace, senior broadcast analyst for UBS Securities, also sees a second-half rebound after a slow start. "Second-quarter radio was flat," he notes, "but our third-quarter estimates are for 2.5% growth with fourth quarter up 3%." UBS's projection for 2003 sees a combined national and local radio growth of 2.2%.

The Los Angeles market, according to a Southern California Broadcasters Association analysis, is a case in point. SCBA reports that, in May, L.A. radio revenue, for the first time, topped $100 million, making the second-largest radio market No. 1 in radio dollars.