Spanish Broadcasting System is playing catch up with its financial reporting – on Friday it disclosed finalized fourth quarter 2020 results. However, management did provide pacing info for the first two quarters of 2021 and the outlook looks very promising.
“January and February started a little slow,” Chief Operating Officer Albert Rodriguez said Friday, especially against Q1 2020 comps when the Hispanic radio and TV operator was starting to reap the rewards of a record year for political ad spending. Business picked up in March. “We’re seeing a very strong trend that started in March and is going into the rest of the year for national and network and even local,” he said.
Rodriguez is encouraged by a recent report from the National Automobile Dealers Association that forecast 17 million new vehicle sales for 2021. “That is a good indicator for the broadcasters, radio in particular,” he said. “I’m feeling very optimistic for the radio industry.”
As that trend continues, Rodriguez predicted a “blowout” second quarter compared to Q2 2020, when the pandemic extracted its biggest toll on the ad business. But the more salient comparison is to Q2 2019 and even there SBS is seeing growth. “When you compare 2021 to 2019, it’s looking very good. We’re very pleased with how we’re doing,” he added, singling out the consumer packaged goods category and national business in general after the company switched rep firms. “With this new partnership with Katz, we’re seeing Q2 numbers go through the roof,” Rodriguez said.
The strong pacings are especially noteworthy when you consider that SBS has very few live events planned for second quarter, compared to two years ago when it was throwing signature shows in Miami and New York with big sponsorship dollars attached. “Yet we’re still pacing very healthy,” he said. “I’m very happy with the outlook for Q2 right now.”
With the nation’s LatinX population over-indexing for mobile media consumption, SBS is experiencing vibrant growth in listening on its LaMusica radio and music streaming platform. During fourth quarter 2020, the platform grew its reach to 1.4 million listeners with 15 million streaming hours per month. That helped boost its programmatic ad revenue by 23% in 2020. Mobile is the biggest driver, making up 92% of digital traffic for SBS in Q4. That growth in online listening enabled SBS to increase its total audience by 18% year-over-year in 2020, Rodriguez said.
Similar to several other radio groups, SBS secured money from the federal government’s CARES Act which aims to provide financial assistance to businesses and individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. SBS received $6.478 million under the Paycheck Protection Program last year and CFO José Molina said the loan has already been forgiven. The company has applied for a second PPP loan, this one for $2 million, but has yet to hear back from the Small Business Administration on whether it was approved.