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Radio on Pace With Projections

The top five radio markets are essentially sold for the first quarter, according to Michele Skettino, VP, marketing communications, Interep. "We see double-digit gains in both February and March over '02." Katz Radio President Mark Gray notes that national spot in general "continues to be strong"—especially in automotive, with Volkswagen and Dodge boosting their budgets over 2002 spending.

According to data provided to BROADCASTING & CABLE, total sales in all categories of radio spot for the first quarter are up 19%: Retail is up 32%, consumer products 13%, telecom/utility 5%, automotive 58% and entertainment up 29% (including large buys from both broadcast and cable entities). Electronics and fast foods also were strong gainers.

Travel and beverages are down 17.0% and 67%, respectively, but, says Gray, "these are very small categories highly affected by even small shifts."

Katz Media CEO Stu Olds says momentum, which gained over the past five quarters and is still growing, makes recent projections in the 6%-8% range "very achievable" for radio revenue in 2003.

The debate over radio ratings continues, however. MediaPost reports that Arbitron saw its fall survey-response rate drop another 4.4%, to 34.4%—the worst ever for a fall book. The drop is across all markets, with larger markets and those with large ethnic populations showing the biggest declines.

But Olds defends the ratings service. "Arbitron historically has produced a very reliable set of data for radio. I'm confident they will quickly and professionally address any issues that confront measurement."