US Media Bosses Upbeat Over Ad Market

02 October 2003

Bosses of America's biggest media firms used a Goldman Sachs conference this week to reassure Wall Street over the state of the US ad market.

First on his feet was Mel Karmazin, president/chief operating officer of Viacom, which last week gave investors the jitters by reducing 2003 profits forecasts due to weak local ad sales [WAMN: 26-Sep-03]. Despite these problems, Karmazin assured listeners that national ad slots on Viacom's TV networks were selling at double-figure premiums over their pre-season prices. He also forecast a healthy 2004 for all the group's units.

Karmazin's counterpart at News Corporation, Peter Chernin, was also in an upbeat mood. He revealed that the Fox Entertainment Group is still on course for earnings expansion by a percentage in the mid-teens for the twelve months ending June 2004. In a sly swipe at Viacom, he added: "We're not spending as much time pretending 2003 is already over."

Next up was Bob Iger, president/chief operating officer at Walt Disney Company, who professed himself "encouraged" by the "apparent strength" in America's ad market. Although revenues at the group's TV division are flat on last year, the radio arm was up 5% to 10% in the last quarter, and ad prices at networks ESPN and ABC are higher than pre-season.

Time Warner then promised further growth from TV businesses such as HBO, TBS and TNT, plus a recovery at ailing internet unit America Online.

And finally, Clear Channel reiterated 2003 earnings guidance of percentage growth in the mid to high single digits. Concluded ceo Lowry Mays: "We're still doing a very good business … the sky's not falling."

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff