26% ad revenue plunge sinks Emmis' Q3

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Shares of Emmis Communications hit a 52-week low Wednesday after the radio station group reported fiscal third-quarter results that missed Wall Street estimates.

Chairman and CEO Jeff Smulyan blamed weak national advertising trends but expressed hope for a stronger 2008. He vowed that radio would bounce back this year after a period of sluggishness by taking the public relations battle to marketers, the Internet and other media that have won market share from radio.

"The industry has been beaten up by every conceivable part of the universe," he said in his earnings conference call. "You're going to see this year — finally — a reinvigorated industry" highlighting its reach.

The comments echoed those from CBS Radio CEO Dan Mason, who last month also vowed to better tell the radio story amid continuing investor and marketer malaise (HR 12/18).

Smulyan said that Portable People Meters are showing 4 million-5 million more cumulative radio listeners in New York than previously thought, but the industry is getting punished for lower levels of time spent with radio.

Emmis posted a fiscal third-quarter loss from continuing operations of $5.5 million, up from a year-ago loss of $1.2 million. Revenue rose slightly from $91.2 million to $91.7 million.

Emmis has been getting clobbered in the nation's biggest media markets — such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — where it gets much of its revenue. The company's national advertising revenue decreased 26% in the latest quarter, well ahead of a decline of about 11% in its markets, executives said Wednesday.

In New York, the overall radio market declined 5% in the quarter, but Emmis lost 11% of its revenue, management said in its call.

Emmis shares closed unchanged at $2.47 after going as low as $2.02 intraday, a 52-week low.
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