The issues of how radio responds to the ongoing developments of the connected car now that Google and Apple are now in the game is a question every operator has to answer. One of the industry thought leaders on this subject is Paul Jacobs whose blog post from today is reposted here.
Here’a recent post from Brad Hill of RAIN. John Gehron, COO of Accuradio (parent company of RAIN) will discuss this and more at the Future of Radio Conference March 23-25 in Hilton Head. Check out the agenda on the Conference tab of this website.
“The whole music subscription sector is intrinsically unprofitable.”
That is the stark conclusion of a 150-page financial research report released by British company Generator Research. Unsustainably high cost of operation will prevent profitability, according to the report, which examined Pandora, iTunes Radio, Deezer, Spotify, and other services in five major music markets.
The report lays the profitability problem plainly on cost of content — royalty payouts to music rights holders. Noting that between 60 and 70 percent of revenues are paid to labels and publishers, the study predicts that usage growth can never catch up to expense. Growth in both usage and revenue will be substantial, according to projections. Music subscription revenue will scale from $1.2-billion in 2013 to $4.2-billion in 2017. That will bring subscription revenue nearly equal with music-download revenue.
The study likewise predicts growth in the popularity of music subscriptions compared to free listening. The paid-subscription piece of the pie will widen from 4.7% in 2013 to 7.5% in 2017, or 36-million users to 125-million users.
The key metric in the study’s profit pessimism is operating cash flow, or the percentage of incoming cash that survives the cost of operation. Using Pandora as a proxy, comparing its 2% of positive cash flow to that of profitable companies (30% for Google) leads to a conclusion that Pandora can never get into the black.
The report focuses on Pandora with a tone of incredulity: “[Pandora] is in dire straits. We are at a loss to know why the company’s stock has performed so well, especially over the last 12 months.” Generator Research recommends shorting Pandora stock, contrary to investor sentiment which has driven Pandora to a market capitalization of $7-billion.
More than a grim reality check for the sector as a whole, the study recommends that streaming music companies explore new avenues of monetization. It’s either that, according to Generator Research, or sell out to a larger company which can afford the red ink. Proposed innovations include:
- Super bundles: This term refers to a proposed combination of streaming and downloading for a higher subscription fee. Generator Research foresees Apple, Amazon, and Google heading toward super bundling.
- Self-serve ads: This technical solution would reduce the cost of selling ads. Implicit in this suggestion is that Pandora’s costly build-out of a local sales force (and all other on-the-street sales efforts) is unprofitable.
- Selling behavioral data: The study seems to suggest that streaming music service borrow a page from Facebook, and sell its customer knowledge.
- Reverse bundling: In addition to seeking partnership deals with telecom companies, sell telecom service through the music platform in an affiliate model.
UPSHOT: The executive summary is that streaming music is inherently unprofitable, because the music providers charge too much for content: “Music subscription services providers are all losing money, and that is going to remain the case until they find a way to monetize a worldwide user base that presently amounts to 767 million, and will grow to nearly 1.7 billion by 2017.”
Here’s an introduction to her presentation that will take place in the first day of the 2 day conference to be held near Hilton Head Island, SC.
RAB’s Role in the Future
By Erica Farber, President & CEO, Radio Advertising Bureau
The Transistor Radio. Sony Walkman. Boom Boxes. The Internet. Smartphones. NextRadio.
Radio’s physical appearance has changed and it will continue to change but certain principles will remain true:
- Radio will be the only medium that reaches listeners throughout their day – in-car, at home or work, and on the go.
- Radio will continue to deliver content to listeners when and where they want it and on whatever device or platform they want it on.
- Radio’s emotional and personal connection with its listeners will grow even stronger as technology creates greater listener interactivity.
Consumers today have numerous options available to them for receiving information, to gain knowledge, to be entertained or to learn about new music. We are no longer living in a “push” world as our audiences are now accustomed to “pulling” the content. Listeners serve as station brand ambassadors promoting radio station content and the personalities they are engaged with.
While it is all changing fast, Radio must move faster. Radio has to remain in lockstep with the consumer, its radio listeners, and anticipate how to maintain communication and, most importantly, their connection with them. This evolution will also require a change in how we do our business and present our value to national advertisers as well as Main Street businesses.
We need to be certain that our sellers have the tools to be competitive in today’s marketplace. Sellers today must be well versed in the nuances of being a marketing partner – understanding the challenges and business needs of their clients. And as technology changes, education and training in how to understand, use and market radio with these changes will be essential.
The RAB will be here as we have always been to provide sellers with the tools and information they need. We will continue to offer the research to support “Why Radio”. We will provide you with turnkey ideas on ways to sell radio’s core business, broadcast, as well as across platforms. Our training programs will continue to revolve around the seven steps of selling– the solid foundation for the sale of Radio advertising. We will expand our collection of sales and management training courses such as Certified Radio Marketing Consultant course for advanced sellers and Certified Radio Sales Management for managers. We are already on a 2.0 version of a certification course for digital radio sellers and are currently working on the next version.
So what will radio look like in the future? No one knows for sure. There are glasses that are computers. Two-way communications via a watch-like device already exists. Whatever the future holds, the RAB will be there.
Many are debating the issue of Radio’s TSL issues. Is it real? Is it because of listening to streamers like Pandora or because of methodology changes in measurement? Kurt Hanson argues the question in this blog post from RAIN. His COO, John Gehron will lead a conversation about this issue and others when he addresses the Future of Radio Conference March 23-25 in Hilton Head, SC. If you haven’t registered, click on one of the links on our website to get more information.
Radio’s AQH Decline and the PPM
There was an interesting debate going on in the “Tom Taylor NOW” newsletter late last week over the recent release of a Borrell Associates white paper called Future of Legacy Media.
Borrell’s report argues that consumers are trading time-spent-listening (TSL) of legacy media like newspapers, radio, and TV for digital media brands, and supports that point with the observation that AM/FM radio’s time-spent-listening has declined 30% between 2008 and 2013. (Since radio’s cume has been holding essentially steady, that means radio’s AQH has also declined by about 30%.)
On Friday, Tom Taylor’s readers were asking if that apparent TSL decline was illusory — i.e., merely the result of a research methodology change, Arbitron’s switch from paper diaries to PPMs (Portable People Meters) in large markets. (“The time period coincides, exactly, with Arbitron’s phased rollout of electronic measurement,” one reader wrote.)
As longtime RAIN readers may recall, I have some experience in this area: For almost 20 years (off and on during the period 1980-2013), I ran a market research firm called Strategic Media Research that was for a while the leading music research firm in America. And when the ratings firm Birch Ratings went out of business in the early 1999s, we launched a telephone interview-based ratings product called AccuRatings that had a successful several-year run that is still remembered fondly by some old radio hands.
So, some thoughts and observations:
- Radio’s actual problem with ratings in the 1990s was one of inadequate sample size: With Arbitron using only a few thousand diaries in a given market per book, a 4.0-share radio station could gain or lose up to a full share point per book simply due to margin of error. (I used to have a slide show — literally 35mm slides; this was before PowerPoint — using a “Marbles in a Swimming Pool” analogy that illustrated the effects of standard error on a research finding.)
- AccuRatings was a product designed to solve the sample size problem: Developed with researchers like Amy Vokes (now at Radio One), Gregg Peterson (now at Market Strategies International), and Tripp Eldredge (now at DMR), it was based on a brief telephone interview that allowed us to use a sample size that was typically three to four times larger than Arbitron’s. (And it had a higher response rate than diaries did, so its findings were likely more representative of the general population.)
- Consolidation largely killed AccuRatings: We were successfully measuring most the top 70 markets in America, but as Clear Channel, under Randy Michaels, kept acquiring more and more of our station clients, Randy insisted that those stations drop Strategic Media Research and switch to a research company that he himself personally owned. (We admittedly made a few mistakes in management hiring, too.)
- Arbitron’s introduction of Portable People Meters (PPMs) solved the wrong problem: Diaries weren’t being filled out precisely to the minute (in fact, lots of respondents filled out their diaries in one sitting at the end of the week), and PPMs “fixed” this problem, but because meters were so much more expensive than paper diaries (hundreds of dollars vs. maybe a dime), Arbitron used far fewer of them per market. So the sample size issue got *worse,* not better!
- More importantly, PPMs introduced a much bigger problem: While people’s entries of their listening behavior in diaries no doubt were somewhat inaccurate, they were inaccurate *in radio’s favor*! In the markets where PPMs were intro used, overall radio listening per Arbitron dropped something like 25%. Nationally, using a mix of PPM and diary markets, radio listening appeared to drop 15%.
- I’ve always thought that radio is to be totally commended for maintaining its revenues and spot rates during the switch to PPM data. After all, if Arbitron ratings showed a high decline in AQH yet stations successfully held their rates (by arguing that their audience size hadn’t changed, only the methodology had), that means they achieve a significant *increase* in cost-per-point and cost-per-thousand. ”Good job, radio industry, on this one!”, I’ve always felt.
- But, wait: Actually, I see BIA/Kelsey data that says that radio station revenues declined from $17.9 billion in 2007 (when Arbitron was all-diaries) to $16.5 billion in 2008 (the year major markets were being switched over to PPMs) to $13.3 billion in 2009 (the first year post-transition to PPMs). That’s a 25% decline — a decline of $4.6 billion annually — that radio hasn’t fully recovered from yet. As I think about history, I attribute this decline to the recession … but is that an incorrect interpretation?
Total U.S. ad spending decline 13% in 2009, but radio ad spending revenues declined 20% that year. Was the extra 7% decline (i.e., $1.15 billion per year), to some extent, the annual (and perhaps continuing ) cost to the radio industry of switching from diaries to PPMs?
In any case, PPMs were introduced in major markets in early 2008, so Tom Taylor’s readers have the date wrong. By 2008, PPMs were already in place in most major markets, and that’s the year that radio’s TSL (hours per week per person) dipped from 17.6 to 15.2 hours.
As for the 30% decline in radio listening TSL that the Borrell study references, I believe that occurred *after* 2008.
Which leads to a big question: *Why* has AM/FM radio lost 30% of its TSL and AQH since 2008? I don’t think this question has been vividly addressed in any major national research study.
However, it seems to me that it’s due to a combination of factors, the first three all being effects of consolidation: (A) The eventual result of over 15 years of shrinking (or no) marketing budgets for stations. (Imagine if Coke and Pepsi and RC all quit advertising for 15 years to save on marketing costs. Cola consumption would probably eventually decline, right?) (B) The result of over 15 years of increased spot loads. (C) The result of over 15 years of cutting back on talented programmers and air personalities to reduce costs. (D) The growth of satellite radio (now with over 25 million subscribers, representing almost 20% of U.S. households), and almost certainly having a negative impact on AM/FM listening in cars. (E) The growth of Internet radio (now used weekly by over a third of the U.S. population), almost certainly having a negative impact on AM/FM listening in the workplace.
But blaming it on the introduction of the PPM? Nope. Primarily, that was the previous 15% decline (2006-2008), *not* the subsequent 30% (2008-2013).
I. Factors driving the radio business changed dramatically from 2002 to the present
II. Scenario Option Development Model offers multiple futures that may evolve based on the business drivers that are least predictable and not in the control of radio management
III. Forecasting vs. Scenario Option Development
IV. Why consider multiple futures?
What are Scenarios?
Scenarios are plausible alternative futures, developed to help people imagine what might happen over the course of time to their industry. Here are the steps in developing them.
- Brainstorm the DRIVING FORCES (political/ legislative, economic, social, competitive, technological, environmental) that might have an impact on your business.
- Select those forces that are the MOST POWERFUL and the MOST UNPREDICTABLE.
- State those forces as POLARITIES (i.e., things that can go from one extreme to another, not binary, either/or choices). It is important that these forces be orthogonal, i.e., different enough that they will create a good model when plotted together.
- Plot 2 or 3 of those forces together as AXES to create a 2 or 3 dimensional model. Many end up being 3 dimensional, creating a cube. However only 4 scenarios are developed, each with the three attributes.
- Develop the SCENARIOS.
- Define LEADING INDICATORS to help identify what would be happening as each potential scenario unfolded.
BACKGROUND: THE 1995 SCENARIOS
Jim Hooker has been wrestling with these issues for the radio industry since 1995. In November of that year, Susan Hooker, his wife, who was leading organization development and strategic planning efforts at Motorola, led his leadership team at Pride Communications (which then owned 3 suburban Chicago stations) in the development of the first session,“Radio Scenarios 1995.” That group agreed that these were the most powerful and most unpredictable forces driving the radio industry at that time:
- Would the industry be “MORE REGULATED” or “LESS REGULATED”? (Remember this was 1995, the year BEFORE the “Telecommunications Act of 1996,” which changed ownership rules.
- Would Radio command “MORE SHARE OF MIND” of the listener or “LESS SHARE OF MIND”?
- Would advertisers do “MORE MASS MARKETING” or “MORE ONE-ON-ONE ADVERTISING”? (Direct Mail was gaining traction, and the Internet was beginning, with the impact on advertising as yet unknown, but participants wondered how it could be used.)
Two of the resulting scenarios, were quite positive, but the other two, indicated trouble ahead. It was that work that gave Jim Hooker the insight to believe that the offer he received in 2000 for Pride Communications, which then owned 9 suburban Chicago stations, was one he should accept. Despite the fact that business was great and radio valuations were holding strong, he was concerned enough about the trends he saw in the advertising community and among listeners that he made the difficult decision to sell.
The Current Scenarios
In 2009, Jim Brewer, who was a participant in developing the 1995 scenarios, convinced Hooker to test the waters to see if a larger group of broadcasters would be interested in taking another look at the radio industry to develop scenarios based on the current environment. Groups then met each year from 2009-2012, first to develop and then to track the industry against the new scenarios. The driving forces for the radio industry identified in 2010, and reaffirmed in the following two years were:
- Whether radio would remain locked into “TOWERS” as the primary source of its revenue, or would truly be transformed into a “MULTIMEDIA ENTERPRISE,” described by participants as a “Multimedia App.”
- Whether ADVERTISER CONFIDENCE and EXPENDITURES would grow or decline.
- Whether USERS would VALUE OUR CONTENT AND BE LOYAL or MIGRATE AWAY.
Once again, four divergent scenarios developed, two of which had distinct but mostly positive characteristics, but two of which indicated many difficulties for the industry. The key is how the radio operators adapt and take advantage of a world that is operating on multiple platforms. Both advertisers and consumers increasingly expect all of the flexibility that digital offers in every aspect of their lives. How radio operators leverage the relationships they have had with both listeners and advertisers and provide products and services that meet or exceed their needs and build their loyalty is the challenge of the day.
For more about the scenarios and our past conferences, please see “White Papers.”
Forecasting vs. Scenario Option Development
Forecasting vs. Scenario Option Development Forecasting (developing budgets based on optimistic views of the future with little consideration of your assumptions) disguises uncertainties, results in single point, linear projections that are quantitative by design. It conceals risks and fosters inertia in a direction that reflects the past. SOD focuses on the uncertainties, clarifies risk, and encourages flexibility and responsiveness.
In scenario work we develop multiple possible futures for our business, depending on how the critical uncertainties play out. That’s the thing about an uncertain future. We just don’t know how it will turn out, so we have to prepare for the unknowable. By thinking through what might happen, and what we need to do IF those things to occur, we can be prepared to take action before our competitors. We also identify the early indicators that each of the scenarios is about to unfold, further helping us to be prepared to take necessary action.
Why consider multiple futures?
1. Because there are more than one possibilities for the future. Any effective structured problem solving model challenges you to start by analyzing the components of the issue before jumping to solutions first. It helps you to know you are working on the right issues and gives you greater depth of understanding. With SOD we start by asking ourselves, “What are the most powerful, least predictable drivers of the radio business?” When you put together two or three unpredictable drivers you get multiple and very diverse futures.
2. Not considering multiple futures locks you into one strategy. If the drivers of the business change you might be unprepared for the new future.
3. By considering multiple futures, you can choose one for planning purposes, knowing you have thought about other alternatives and are prepared to shift gears if an alternative scenario evolves.
4. Having used the SOD model for strategic planning, you can track unpredictable drivers over time knowing you can alter your plan based on trends in the drivers.
What follows is a write up of our proceedings from our meetings in Hilton Head in 2009 and 2010. In each case you will see a list of the persons who contributed to the discussions and thoughts about the future of radio. You will also see the agenda for our meeting to take place in March of 2011. Please review the data and contribute your thoughts on our blog. We value divergent thoughts about our discussions and conclusions. This is an on going narrative.
As you will see in the next few weeks as we run up to our annual Future of Radio Conference, I’ve become a big fan of the JacoBlog. They have posted today James Cridland’s comments about the debate of what is radio. Cridland is a Brit who comments frequently about our business in the US with credibility. This time he jumps into the ongoing debate about what is radio which I have thought to be a silly discussion. However this is the best most credible comment on the subject I’ve seen. We’ll pick up on this conversation during the first day of the conference when Sean Ross shares his take on the subject. There are still a few places left if you’d like to join the conversation. Let me know if you’d like an invitation to our conference. Space is limited.
The core issue for most broadcast owners is how do I influence the value of my assets or what is the value of my assets. George Reed addresses that issue in this blog post he wrote a few weeks ago. He and Stephan Sloan will lead off the Future of Radio Conference, March 23-25 in Hilton Head, SC with a session on this very subject. If you have an interest in attending our conference, let me know. We have a limited number of seats and they are going fast…really. If you have already registered, you’ll enjoy this article by George Reed as a lead up to the conference.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
What was the multiple? -by George Reed
Broadcast cash flow multiples have always been the top discussion topic with radio and television station buyers, sellers, bankers and brokers. Particularly in the convention bars. But, “caveat emptor!” There are a myriad of ways to cause an “apples & oranges” comparison. Here are a few thoughts to help you match your apples to other apples:
- Take all discussions on multiples with a grain of salt, whether directly with the participants or in published reports. Unless you have seen the financial statements and the asset purchase agreement, you do not really know the multiple.
- The multiple to the seller and the multiple to the buyer are usually very different on the SAME transaction; just ask them. Case in point: on a transaction some years ago, my client, the seller, thought that he got a 20x multiple. The buyer thought that they bought at 12x. They were both correct. The price and the cash flow at the time of the signing of the APA suggest that the seller was correct. The actual and pro forma cash at the closing, following a long LMA, suggest that the buyer was correct.
- BCF multiples can be based on a) trailing twelve months, b) calendar year, c) projected, d) reconstructed with expense savings pro forma, or e) any combination.
- Published multiples are often estimates from uninvolved parties, or if from an involved party, reflective of the “spin” that he/she wants to create in the marketplace. Brokers are often asked for the multiple in a deal; most, like us, will not give them out. Some make up their own number which often bears little resemblance to reality.
- Often, a sale will bring a lower real multiple if several markets are involved (many times a seller could net much more, and a higher sale multiple, if they break up the markets and sell to strategic buyers).
- Sometimes the “true” multiple is buried in the weeds of the transaction, particularly if swaps are involved
- How do you value the stock component of a deal if the consideration is a combination of cash and stock?
- How do you “adjust” the multiple to fair market value when there are tax considerations (such as 1031 like kind exchanges).
- “Distress” situations (bankruptcy and receivership) usually bring lower multiples than sales of healthy businesses.
- Stock sales bring lower multiples than asset sales (to compensate for the tax risk and lower basis).
- Multiples are often higher in cash flow deals where additional cost savings are obvious.
- Multiples are often higher when the seller is taking back paper.
- What is the multiple if there is no (or minimal) cash flow?
There are a lot of factors which enter into the “multiples” discussion. Take care to make sure that all involved parties are speaking the same language. Ultimately the value of the station (or cluster) is worth what a willing buyer will pay and what a willing seller will accept. A buyer should determine his/her price based on the value of the future returns, discounted at a reasonable estimate of the risk. In the end, the marketplace determines the price.
Media Services Group
P.S. Following this initial post, several additional examples of the “My Cash Flow Multiple” vs. “Your Cash Flow Multiple” argument surfaced.
- The treatment/allocation of corporate expenses in adjusting EBITDA back to BCF.
- Add-backs of “owner expenses” (i.e. whether or not they are truly operating expenses).
- Treatment of “inter-company” revenue such as traffic services and unwired nets (which often vaporizes at closing).
Here’s an interesting perspective on the future of radio originally posted on JacoBLOG last year…
Best of JacoBLOG – Why I Won’t Go To Radio Reunions
I know this post will come off as callous or even blasphemous to many hard core radio people, but I’ve been thinking a lot about point of view over the holidays.
In fact, I’ve changed my Facebook Timeline picture to show a view (in Michigan) out the windshield – rather than looking back through the rear-view mirror.
At so many formal and informal radio gatherings over the past few years, the conversation has devolved to a discussion, debate, or lamentation about how the radio business isn’t what it used to be.
Nothing is what it used to be. That’s why the phrase, “the new normal,” came into being. It’s a statement that life as we knew it has changed. It is incumbent upon all of us to adjust – or simply move on. Either decision is valid, but to stay in place and complain about how the business has gone to hell is simply counterproductive, especially for those of us who are making our way through it, trying to innovate, make adjustments, and keep it vital and healthy.
While there are so many aspects of radio that I also miss, getting caught up in conversations about the good old days erodes our ability to implement change, improvements, and to keep it moving forward.
So that’s why I’m looking ahead.
We can debate or lament the industry’s changes, and point the finger at consolidation, radio companies going public, or all the painful staff cuts that have taken place.
Or we can play the cards we’re dealt the best way possible to make it better.
So I’m done with radio reunions.
And it’s not because I don’t want to see old friends and colleagues because the past four decades have been cherished times professionally and personally for me.
But I’m hoping that the next decade is just as memorable, amazing, and exciting – even though I know all too well that it will be very different than the way things have been in the past.
No rear view here.
Eyes out the windshield.
Who’s taking the ride with me?
At the 2012 Future of Radio Conference, we noted a number of “Helping Forces” — factors that will speed up the evolution of the high-tech dashboard — and “Hindering Forces” — those factors that will slow down that evolution. And one key hindering force we said to watch for is government regulation based on safety concerns. We speculated this regulation could come in the form of laws from Congress and/or safety regulations from the bureaucracy.
As noted on NBCNews.com recently in a story titled Safety Officials Say High-Tech Dashboards Can Be Too Distracting, our prediction is becoming reality right on cue. And it’s the bureaucrats leading the way… specifically, the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Safety Administration.
The NHSA has issued a list of “suggestions” designed to curb driver distractions. Most items on the list involve disabling the driver’s ability to interact with the system while driving. The article goes on to suggest that consumers will hate these suggestions; setting up a really interesting challenge for designers of the Connected Car.
The implications for Radio: (a) anything that slows down the evolution of the Connected Car reduces competition for AQH in the car and gives Radio more time to determine its Connected Car strategy — as an industry Radio has done very little in this regard; (b) if the NHSA’s suggestions fall on deaf ears, Radio will continue to see a greater and greater challenge to its dominance of in-car entertainment — and in-car listening is estimated to represent as much as two-thirds of all AQH.
Every broadcaster has to look at these numbers. This did not exist five years ago in any significant numbers….32% of the population streams music today. The 16-24 numbers are huge but look at 35-54 year olds…33% steam and 23% of 55-64 year olds stream. Wow!!! Where will this be in five years and where will radio be? Mobile has just started to drive the growth.
Read this article from Audio4Cast:
Global Streaming Music Trends
Early stages of adoption of a new technology are often driven by young males, something that has been true of streaming audio, according to Mark Mulligan, former vp and research director at Jupiter/Forrester Research and now independent advisor to the music industry. Mulligan recently posted an analysis of streaming audio listening based on data from EMI’s Global Consumer Insight data, an 850,000 interview dataset.
54% of streaming music users are male and 46% are female globally, with more users in Norway, Spain, Sweden and France than anywhere else. On average, 32% of the population streams music, which is exactly the penetration of usage in the US. While streaming music reaches close to 50% of 16 to 24 year olds, it also reaches 33% of 35 to 54 year olds and 23% of 55 to 64 year olds.
Mulligan created a nifty infographic that provides an overview of his analysis: