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Rebound for Radio in '04

December was a mixed bag for national radio, but analysts, including Tim Wallace at UBS, say the medium is poised to "bounce back" in 2004.

So do industry executives. Stu Olds, CEO of Katz Media Group, predicts that, in 2004, "the sun, moon and stars align as reflected by a growing economy, tightening of inventory due to the elections and Olympics, and an improving advertising climate. This will produce a very good year for national spot radio, which will result in radio outperforming total ad spending once again."

As for fourth quarter '03, Marc Guild, president of Interep's marketing division, reports that national radio revenue is down 2% in December. ABC Radio Networks President Traug Keller, on the other hand, says his fourth quarter looks to be up 5%.

For next year, UBS is projecting 4% growth for radio ad spending in the first quarter, 6% in the second, and 7% in both the third and the fourth quarter for an annual gain of 6 % over 2003.

Universal McCann forecaster Bob Coen foresees a 7% total growth for ad spending in radio in '04, but, he adds, Olympic and political spending will not stimulate local spending as much as it will national budgets.

Keller expects a robust first quarter, with pharmaceuticals and retail driving spending. Interep sees a flat first quarter but with some categories looking very good, including telcoms, retail, finance and movies.

Meanwhile, "there's plenty of first-quarter inventory at good prices," says Larry Alecia, associate director/national broadcast, Optimedia.