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Forecast 2015
Forecast 2015

Michael Bergner is president of Bergner & Co.

Any indication from the people you talk to that 2015 is going to be any better for radio?

BERGNER: I think that is the problem right now. People used to be able to forecast pretty accurately based on their pacings and how the business was coming in. Radio lost that clairvoyance a long time ago. People never know what's going to be in the door until it's in the door. I don't think people know what they are going to do next month.

Is radio simply a mirror of the general economy?

That's the $64,000 question. Obviously, we have been chal- lenged by the streaming, Pandora, satellite, etc., however people get their music these days. One of the biggest things is that radio has been shooting itself in the foot with this Portable People Meter. It has really hurt a lot of the big markets. You get such share com- pression between the first station in the market and the last station in the market. That makes it difficult.

As far as financing goes, is there money for deals out there?

That's the good news right now. What has driven all of this M&A activity in 2014, and the last half of 2013, is the availability of debt. That's really what is driving everything right now. If the banks tighten up lending, then I would say that would really be a death blow for the industry.

Why is it important to have M&A activity?

That brings old money out and new money in, new blood in, old blood out at least, from my perspective, since I have been doing this for 27 years. That's what keeps the skids greased. If everyone is just sitting there, then it gets difficult. We have already had that envi- ronment in 2009 and 2010.

Is there something specific the money people are looking for in terms of a buyer

There are two types of money. One is equity money. Then there is debt money. I will tell you that the debt money is flowing pretty well right now at least, it has been. Equity has still been a tough sell. It's been tough for radio operators to attract equity to this business. As long as I have been doing this, it's only been some periods of time, through the height of consolidation, where we had debt and equity available at the same time. It always seems you can get either debt and no equity or you can get equity, and then one day you can't get debt. It is like a swinging pendulum. We have been in sync before. But right now, it is much easier to get debt than equity

What are the multiples out there these days

I think some of the higher sales in the larger markets have been done at 8-times. At the bottom, 4.5-times as we were emerging from this economic crisis. Right now, I would say that sellers are definitely trying to get closer to 7-times or 6-times

Is radio destined to be a flat- to low-growth industry?

I don't think it is destined to be a low- or flat-growth industry. But certainly it has been challenged

Give us your 2015 prediction. Are we going to see a lot of deals? Do you think there will be growth in revenue?

I think there will be some deals. The top line is going to be inter- esting, because that is what is going to drive the business. Given where interest rates are today and the availability of money, if this business had any true top-line growth, like 5 or 6 percent, multiples would be at 10- to 12-times cash flow for radio stations. But we just don't have that top-line growth right now.

"I thInk some of the hIgher sales In the larger mar- kets have been done at 8-tImes. at the bottom, 4.5-tImes as we were emergIng from thIs economIc crIsIs. rIght now, I would say that sellers are defInItely tryIng to get closer to 7-tImes or 6-tImes."