Same station revenue at Cumulus Media declined 4.4% to $285.5 million in fourth quarter 2019, with most of the shortfall stemming from the loss of political revenue in a non-election year. CEO Mary Berner described the ad market in fourth quarter 2019 as “choppy.” Excluding political, same station Q4 revenues were down 1.7% to $282.4 million but grew 1.4% for full year 2019.Same station earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA, a measure of cash flow) fell 8.0% to $47.9 million, excluding political.
Cumulus completed a series of station sales and swaps in 2019, resulting in a slightly smaller station portfolio. That makes same-station results the most relevant metric for evaluating the company’s performance. On an actual basis, Q4 revenue fell 7.7% to $285.5 million, net income was $1.6 million and EBITDA was $50.7 million, down 22.8% from the year-ago period.
For full year 2019, same-station revenue was flat at $1.1 billion while EBITDA fell 9.1% to $213.0 million, compared to 2018. Excluding political, same station full year revenues were up 1.4%. EBITDA (excluding political) was $206.8 million, up 0.5% from full year 2018.
Coming off a soft fourth quarter, the company is touting its modest same-station full year growth, which was propelled by a 60% increase in digital revenues.
“On a same station basis, our team has now delivered the second year in a row of revenue growth and, excluding the impact of political, the third year in a row of adjusted EBITDA growth,” CEO Mary Berner said in a press release ahead of the company’s Friday morning earnings call. “This year’s results reflect the success of our consistent focus on key strategies to create value for our investors.”
Berner described the ad market in fourth quarter 2019 as “choppy.” Cumulus and other media companies also faced “an expected political headwind” following strong Q4 election ad billings in 2018’s mid-term elections. Still, the company’s Q4 numbers were in-line with the pacing Berner and departing CFO John Abbot the gave on its last earnings call while EBITDA “was somewhat better than we had indicated,” Berner said.
For 2020 Berner said she’s optimistic about “our continuing ability to drive strong operating and financial performance.”
During 2019 Cumulus used proceeds from station sales and free cash flow to pay down $220 million in debt, reducing its net leverage to 4.7-times.