100 LEADING MEDIA COS.;HAMMOCK YEAR STINTS TV; RADIO, CABLE WARM UP EARLY '96 RETURNS ARE ENCOURAGING FOR KEY TOP 100 MEDIA SEGMENTS

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Broadcasting is a finely tuned machine that leaks a little oil now and then: With TV, the ad engine stalls every two years for lack of ad stimulus; cable broke down in revenues two years ago from government-imposed rollbacks.

TV hit its "hammock" year in 1995, a term used by Television Bureau of Advertising's VP-Research Harold Simpson, referring to '95 hanging between two ad-infused years-the elections and Olympics.

Last year TV (local, national spot, nationally syndicated and network TV) grew a collective 3% to $27.91 billion. The 41 leading media companies with TV in this report did slightly better, growing 5.6% to account for $19.8 billion of the total. This compares with the segment's 11.7% growth in '94.

The Olympics raises the stakes. The Centennial Games came to TV in June, a month before Atlanta's opening ceremonies. Local TV in June grew 10.5% and spot 9.8% as Olympic advertisers hit all networks prior to concentrating on NBC affiliates in July.

That one month helped push first-half '96 TV station advertising (local and national spot) up 5.4% and network, up over 10%.

During the Olympics, heavy advertising on NBC affiliates led to spillover to other stations. NBC stations are expected to show 20% to 30% ad growth over '95 levels in the third quarter, Mr. Simpson predicts.

The fall elections could fatten the ad coffers by another $500 million, up from $300 million in 1992, he predicts, betting on a tighter race developing by fall.

HUGE RADIO CHANGES

Radio got a whole new oil change with the Telecommunications Act. With caps removed from the number of radio stations a single operator could hold, the well-funded groups gunned into action.

The ensuing acquisitiveness pumped up the number of 100 Leading Media Companies with radio properties to 20-including four new virtually all-radio entries-and pushed radio's revenue total to $2.96 billion. That represents 2.9% of total media on the chart, up from 1.9% of the total last year.

On a pro forma basis, radio grew 11% in the report.

The station accumulation taking place should make for even stronger growth next year as critical mass will give radio better pricing in local markets-that is, if the government doesn't step in to thwart the concentration taking place in major markets.

CABLE COMES UNCLOGGED

Cable companies in '95 unclogged revenue streams constricted the previous year by an FCC-imposed 7% rollback in prices for basic and tiered services. From growth of only 5.8% in '94-largely the result of a 4.4% expansion in cable households-the 29 media companies with cable boosted revenue in the medium 21.3% to $26.7 billion.

Cable's improved results are the product of increase advertising, continued growth in cable households, slightly higher rates for basic and greater movement by subscribers into higher-priced premium services.

REGIONAL SPORTS WHITE HOT

Advertising among all cable companies advanced 16.3% to $5.34 billion, with cable networks, the medium's largest ad component, growing 14.4% to $3.67 billion. Local/spot advertising pushed forward 19.8% to $1.44 billion and regional sports, 27.2% to $215 million, according to Paul Kagan Associates as reported to Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau.

Rates rebounded, but modestly after the imposition of new federal rules. As an example, General Media's state-of-the-art Fairfax, Va., system rebounded from a 1.6% decline in overall revenue in '94 to an 8.8% gain in '95.

The mature system did this by boosting basic rates 2.1% and pulling 6.5% more revenue from expanded services. Its subs grew 3.5% to 221,784. The upshot is the system generated $46.25 per subscriber per month, up from $42.50 in '94, and $45.15 in '93.

Several revenue components of cable are showing steady growth this year. Household penetration through mid-year reached 68.1% of the nation, or 65.3 million, and first quarter ad revenue in network cable grew 28%.

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