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Taylor: Chapter 11 for Regent? (And 3Q Reports from Saga, CC)

Less than a week after Citadel Broadcasting announced it may soon be exploring “the possibility of seeking relief through a Chapter 11 filing,” one prominent online columnist explains why he thinks Regent could be in a similar situation.  Both companies own stations in Central New York.

In today’s edition of Taylor on Radio-Info, columnist Tom Taylor speculates on the possibility of a Regent bankruptcy filing because, “I’m hearing that [Regent] has an amortization payment due in late December.”  He also notes the company made mention to the fact it has been “in default with lenders since April 1,” during its recent 3rd quarter conference call.  Note, however, that the company hasn’t specifically mentioned “Chapter 11” outright like Citadel has.

In its 3rd quarter SEC filing on November 10th, Regent said “same station net revenue decreased 14.3% in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the same period of 2008 due to a general deterioration in spending by advertisers due to recessionary economic conditions throughout the United States during the quarter.”  At the same time, Regent says it has cut expenses — 22% from promotions, 7% each from programming and sales — among other areas.

Locally, Regent owns four stations in the Utica-Rome market, including Big Frog 104 (WFRG), Lite 98.7 (WLZW), Oldiez 96 (WODZ) and Newsradio 950 WIBX.

Saga Reports on 3rd Quarter

We’re a little late on this — another tip of the hat to Taylor, who reported yesterday on Saga’s third quarter conference call.  CEO Ed Christian said revenues were down 14% compared to the same period last year — but would have been flat from year-to-year if you ignore political advertising.  (And understandably so, considering we had a presidential election last year, but relatively few major races across the country this year.)  The company reported cash flow actually improved over last year, as cost-cutting moves outpaced the decline in revenue.  You may recall in February, the local full-time air staff at Saga rocker I-100 (WIII) was cut to just one morning show host, followed by a lineup of syndicated talent.

The Michigan-based company has posted more details from their 3rd quarter report on their corporate website.  Saga owns  five stations in the Ithaca market, including I-100 (WIII), Lite Rock 97.3 (WYXL), News/Talk 870 WHCU, Progressive Talk 1470 WNYY and Q-Country 103.7 (WQNY).  Additionally, the station operates two additional formats carried on translator FM signals, and simulcast on HD radio subchannels: Hits 103.3 (WYXL-HD2) and 98.7 The Vine (WYXL-HD3).

Clear Channel Down 17%

The phrase, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” comes to mind.  While Clear Channel said it’s not in danger of getting into trouble with its lenders right now, it’s important to note that 17% at Clear Channel is considerably more than 17% anywhere else in radio.

In an official statement (which is easier to understand than the official SEC filing), Clear Channel said last year’s 3rd quarter revenues of $844 million fell to $703 million this year.  But at the same time, operating expenses fell about 16% — a great part of that likely coming from two rounds of layoffs at Clear Channel clusters nationwide.  Locally, former Newsradio 570 WSYR/ Sportsradio 620 WHEN PD Jim Lerch was cut loose on Inauguration Day, and former Hot 107.9 (WWHT)/Power 106.9 (WPHR) programmer Butch Charles was pink-slipped in April.

Aside from the stations mentioned above, Clear Channel also owns Y94FM (WYYY) and B104.7 (WBBS) in Syracuse.  Earlier this year, the company’s “Aloha Stations Trust” sold the former Nova 105.1 (WWDG) to the locally-owned Foxfur Communications, in order to comply with FCC market ownership limits following Clear Channel’s transition to private ownership in 2007.  The station has since been reformatted as New Country WOLF 105.1 (WOLF-FM).

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