For the fourth year in a row, news WTOP-FM Washington, DC was radio’s top-billing station in 2018, surpassing stations in much larger markets with bigger revenue bases. BIA Advisory Services’ just issued top ten stations by revenue finds the Hubbard Radio station top of the heap again with 2018 revenues of $69 million. It is again followed by iHeartMedia CHR KIIS-FM Los Angeles, which posted $61 million in 2018 – the influential CHR last topped the BIA list in 2014 and has been second to WTOP ever since.
Moving up from fourth in 2017 to third is iHeartMedia hot AC “104.3 My FM” KBIG Los Angeles, with 2018 revenues of $46 million. Up a slot to fourth is iHeartMedia AC “Lite FM” WLTW ($44 Million), followed by clustermate CHR “Z100” WHTZ ($42 million), dropping from third in 2017.
Entercom sports “The Fan” WFAN-AM/FM New York remains in sixth year-over-year, posting 2018 revenues of $41.5 million. The remaining Top 10 also remain unchanged from 2017. Entercom news WINS New York is seventh, with $40.5 million in 2018 revenues, followed by New York news sister WCBS ($39 million), Entercom news WBBM Chicago ($39 million) and iHeartMedia news/talk KFI Los Angeles ($35 million).
Among owners, iHeart corralled half of the top 10 stations, Entercom took four and Hubbard had one. Broken out by markets, New York placed five entries, L.A. had three, and Chicago and Washington landed one apiece.
Digital Leads Radio Industry Growth
The highly anticipated top 10 list isn’t the only piece of market intelligence BIA released today. Picking up some of the slack from the end of the Radio Advertising Bureau’s annual revenue reports, BIA also offered some broad metrics of the industry’s overall performance in 2018. Digital ad platforms at local radio stations led revenue growth again last year, jumping 8.1% to $923 million, continuing a trend that began six years ago. Over-the-air advertising remained relatively flat at $13.3 billion (down 1.6% from $13.5 in 2017). Combined 2018 revenues of $14.2 billion positioned radio as the fifth largest local ad platform, behind direct mail, mobile, online/digital, and local television, BIA said.
“Although local radio stations are still important players in their markets and are managing to maintain their position in the top five advertising platforms, we do expect the OTA advertising revenue of U.S. radio stations to decrease this year by 1-2 percent and through the next few years,” BIA Senior VP and Chief Economist Mark Fratrik said in a news release. He forecasts that combined radio revenues will remain relatively flat for at least the next five years, while digital platforms will hit $1 billion by 2020.
BIA’s new “Investing In Radio Market Report” also turns an eye to radio deal-making. Following a strong year of transactions in 2017 – mainly due to Entercom acquiring CBS Radio– the volume was down to a level on par with previous years, with 609 stations being sold at an estimated value of $745 million. That compares to 752 stations changing hands in 2017 at a value of $3.3 billion. “If there is some regulatory relief at the FCC, we would expect the number and dollar volume of radio station sales to increase,” Fratrik predicted.