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Ownership

Ownership

In terms of ownership, 2004 was a year of stability on the surface. But there was some movement in the second and third tier of companies, as the ethnic media and specialized companies continued to thrive.

With 1,194 stations, Clear Channel owns nearly 900 more than the next ownership group, Cumulus Broadcasting. In fact Clear Channel, which reaches 188 markets1 (three times the number reached by Cumulus), dominates the industry, as does no other single company in any other medium we study. It has been at the top of the heap since early 2000.

Number of Stations Owned by Top Broadcasting Companies

Rank Owner
# of Stations
# of News Stations
1 Clear Channel Communications
1,194
133
2 Cumulus Broadcasting Inc.
305
32
3 Citadel Broadcasting Corp
220
24
4 Infinity Broadcasting
183
21
5 Educational Media Foundation
118
0
6 American Family Association Inc.
109
0
7 Entercom
103
15
8 Salem Communications Corporation
103
14
9 Saga Communications Inc.
86
13
10 Cox Broadcasting
78
7
11 Regent Communications, Inc.
75
7
12 ABC/Disney
73
5
13 Univision Communications Inc.
70
0
14 Waitt Broadcasting Inc.
70
3
15 Radio One Inc.
68
7
16 NextMedia Group
65
0
17 Entravision Holdings LLC
54
0
18 Multicultural Radio Broadcasting Inc.
47
6
19 Nassau Broadcasting Partners LP
47
2
20 Triad Broadcasting Company
46
4

Source: BIAfn Media Access Pro
# of News Stations based on number of stations including News as their primary format.

Number of Markets Reached by Top Companies
Design Your Own Chart
Source: BIAfn Media Access Pro, unpublished data
* Top five companies by number of stations whose holdings include news format stations
Change in Stations Owned by the Top Companies
1999 to 2004
Design Your Own Chart
Source: BIAfn Media Access Pro, unpublished data
* Top five companies by number of stations whose holdings include news format stations

But bigger isn’t always better. For example, Emmis Communications, while it does not make the top 20 in number of stations owned, sits at number 10 in revenue (see chart). And some of the largest companies in number of stations owned (including three of the top five — Clear Channel, Viacom, which owns Infinity, and Citadel) have seen the greatest decline of overall station ratings while some smaller groups have seen the greatest increase.

In numbers of radio stations, Clear Channel dwarfs both Entravision (53 stations) and Univision Communications (72 stations). But Barron’s (August 30, 2004) noted that those two companies, along with Spanish Broadcasting, had made some of the industry’s greatest ratings gains. And the station numbers for Entravision and Univision, while not the whole story, should not be ignored. Since last year’s State of the News Media report both have moved into the list of top 20 radio owners based on station counts.

Multicultural Radio Broadcasting Inc. (see Air America) has also entered the top-20 list at number 17, with 47 stations in 22 markets. Based on information on its Web site, MRBI’s holdings center on Spanish-language and ethnic programming. For example, in the Los Angeles area, it runs KALI (900 AM) and KALI-FM (106.3 FM). According to the Web site, the stations include programming in Spanish, Pakistani, Indian, English, Thai, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Japanese and Cambodian.

And so, even though the combined 172 stations of Entravision, Univision and MRBI reach only 67 markets (not much more than the 60 reached by Cumulus Broadcasting) their growth makes them three of radio’s up-and-coming station groups. Entravision and Univision Communications, along with MRBI (and the Spanish Broadcasting System), reinforce the reality that, while huge station numbers might be impressive, success comes down to finding a format and finding an audience.

Spanish-language programming, along with religious and urban formats, is where much of radio’s audience growth has been taking place over the last five years. Cultural and lifestyle trends in the greater population make these types of programming profitable and attractive. For example, it has been estimated that Hispanic buying power will total some $992 billion by 2009.2 The 2004 presidential campaign made it very clear that urban minorities and people of faith are key audiences that wield increasing power in the country. In the midst of that campaign year, in September, Clear Channel announced plans to convert as many as 25 of its stations to Spanish-language programming.

In October 2004, Infinity entered what was referred to as a “joint strategic alliance” with Spanish Broadcasting System to assist with and consult on Infinity’s movement into Spanish-language programming.

Unfortunately, the growth of Spanish-language programming might not do much to help stations that operate with news or talk formats.

The stability of audiences for news, talk and information stations might be good for companies that want a loyal, solid audience (think NPR), but the nature of radio allows a station that’s not pleasing the head office to be re-formatted practically overnight.

The first station Clear Channel decided to change over to Spanish-language programming? WMAX in Atlanta — a talk radio station that now broadcasts Spanish rock.

Footnotes

1. Arbitron ranked 293 markets for fall 2004.

2. Jeffrey M. Humphreys, “The multicultural economy 2004,” Georgia Business and Economic Conditions, vol. 64, no. 3 (Third Quarter 2004), p. 6.