Coming off a strong fourth quarter 2021 performance with better-than-expected results, Urban One is off to what CFO Peter Thompson says is “a good start” to 2022. First quarter ad pacings are up “across the board,” he said Thursday, with core radio ad pacings – minus political – up low double digits. While auto continues to lag last year, services, healthcare, retail, and entertainment are all showing “very healthy” year-over-year increases, Thompson said during the company’s quarterly call with investors. Ad revenues at syndication arm Reach Media are also pacing up “strong double digits.”
CEO Alfred Liggins said advertiser demand for Urban One’s African American audience “continues to be very strong” and he expects it to remain high for the foreseeable future. “I do believe there has been a paradigm shift at how advertisers look at minority-targeted and focused audiences,” Liggins said. “The audiences of Hispanic and African Americans are increasingly valuable as the country continues to grow in its minority presence.” As a 40-year player in this space, Urban One has become “a big beneficiary” as more advertisers invest in minority-owned and targeted media.
Total fourth quarter revenues grew 15.3% year-over-year to $131.0 million. That allowed the African American media specialist to turn the corner on the pandemic, with revenues from radio broadcasting, syndication, events and digital operations up 25% when compared to fourth quarter 2019.
The loss of $10 million in political ad sales caused broadcast revenue at the Radio One station group to decline 11.6% compared to the same period in the 2020 election year. Excluding political, broadcast radio station revenue increased 15.5% year over year, with local up 11% and national up 12%. Radio ad revenues, minus political, grew 18% to $46.2 million but declined when including political.
Apart from a significant loss in political ad dollars, most of the major ad categories showed year-over-year growth in fourth quarter 2021. The entertainment category registered the biggest year-over-year surge, up 166%. Services, healthcare, financial, telecom, travel and transportation all experienced double-digit increases compared to last year, and retail was also up. Thanks to government-funded pandemic outreach campaigns, government and public remained the radio division’s biggest ad category. However auto, still reeling from inventory shortages, fell 12.8% year-over-year and food and beverage also declined.
Reach Media, the syndication arm behind Rickey Smiley, “The Morning Hustle,” Donnie Simpson and others, nearly doubled billings to $19.3 million from $10.3 million in the prior year period. The boxcar increase was due in large part to $7 million in billings from “The Fantastic Voyage” cruise which returned in fourth quarter 2021 after being cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Digital ad revenues enjoyed “explosive” growth, Liggins said, rocketing up 42.9% to $19.5 million as Urban One exceeded $50 million in annual digital revenue for the first time.
Cable TV ad revenues at the TV One division jumped 43.6% to $29.0 million, which the company attributed to strong upfront demand and higher average unit rates. Total cable TV billings came in at $54.6 million.