After 2021 brought a strong advertising rebound to radio, the year ahead is expected to see continued growth, as broadcasters work to return to pre-COVID revenue levels. Two factors will play outsized roles in the ongoing recovery, iHeartMedia Chairman and CEO Bob Pittman tells Inside Radio for our Radio Forecast 2022 series. “We think radio will benefit from both political and more interest in audio than there has been in recent years,” Pittman says.
With forecasters calling for $215 million in mid-term election spending on broadcast radio, Pittman anticipates a big year ahead for political. “This election will be about control of the House and perhaps even the Senate, so I suspect there is going to be a lot of money pouring into these races,” he says. “The question is could it possibly be as big as a presidential year; that I don’t know, and won’t know until we get closer,” he adds.
The other major growth catalyst Pittman sees next year is a heightened interest in audio by major advertisers as the medium enjoys a resurgence. He’s hopeful that recent findings that audio captures 31% of media consumption but only 9% of ad spend will enlighten marketers to the opportunity audio represents. “Our hope is that the WARC study is important information that informs the strategists and planners in media who will have a positive impact on the money allocated to radio, and to audio in general.”
As digital continues to take a larger share of ad budgets – BIA forecasts digital will corner 47.6% of local ad dollars in 2022 – Pittman sees it continuing to grow as a revenue stream for radio, especially podcasting. “The huge growth of podcasting will be driving a lot of digital audio advertising,” he says.
As for which bucket of radio ad dollars will show the most growth next year – local, national or network – Pittman is betting they will all grow. “I don’t think there’s necessarily going to be a differential in growth; I think demand comes from companies, and those companies use our inventory in different ways.”
Different companies are on different timetables for when they will return to 2019 revenue levels. On its third quarter earnings call, iHeart management said they expect to return to 2019 revenue levels in fourth quarter 2021.
Read part one of our Radio Forecast: 2022 series with Cumulus Media CEO Mary Berner HERE.
Read part two with Townsquare Media CEO Bill Wilson HERE.
Read part three with Beasley Media Group CEO Caroline Beasley HERE.