Across the board, Salem Media is celebrating a vigorous rebound in third-quarter 2021, not only compared with 2020, but also reporting gains over a pre-pandemic 2019.
On Thursday, the company reported a 9.3% increase in its broadcasting division’s net revenue for Q3, to $49.6 million from $45.4 million—while digital revenue has escalated a profound 135.6% since 2019, thanks in part to the January 2021 launch of Salem’s own podcast network, which brought in $1.8 million during Q3 alone, helping pump up a 13.6% in broadcast division digital revenue since 2019. In fact, Salem says that 29.5% of the company’s total revenue in third-quarter 2021 now can be attributed to digital, while digital also represents 18% of its broadcast revenue.
Reporting a companywide Q3 revenue increase of 8.8%, to $66 million from $60.6 million year over year, Executive VP & CFO Evan Masyr explained to investors during Salem’s Thursday afternoon call that “because 2020 is a difficult year to compare to, we’re more focused internally on comparisons to 2019, even though the economy is not yet fully reopened.”
Utilizing that template, Salem’s total revenue—compared with 2019—increased 2.9%, comparing Q3 to Q3, with adjusted EBITDA up 2.7%. “We’re very pleased that Salem has reached the pre-pandemic levels of revenue and EBITDA that the industry has been shooting for,” noted Masyr.
Breaking down the broadcast division, total revenue was up 4% in Q3 over the same quarter in 2019. Local spot advertising increased 12.6%, while national spot decreased by 0.2%. According to David Santrella, President of Salem Media Group’s broadcast division, excluding political advertising, local would have been up 15.1% and national up 0.9%. “Advertising is not back to 2019 levels,” he admitted.
National block programming was up 6.6% in the third quarter compared to last year, with local block programming rising 9.1%. In total, block programming escalated 7.4% year over year year—a 4.8% decline, compared to the third quarter of 2019.
Salem also broke down revenue performance based on radio formats: 38 stations are programmed in foundational Christian teaching and talk, which contributed 37% of total broadcast revenue and increased 7.9% for the quarter. Its 31 news/talk outlets showed a quarterly revenue increase of 6%, contributing 17% of total broadcast revenue. Revenue from 12 contemporary Christian music stations brought in 10% of total broadcast revenue, with a 10.5% uptick in Q3 2021.
Looking toward fourth quarter, Salem is projecting total revenue to be between flat and up 2% from Q4 2020’s revenue of $64.5 million. Compared to Q4 2019, revenue is projected to also be between flat and up 2%.