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Local Radio Stations Rank Among Top 5 Most Significant Ad Platforms; Overall Ad Revenue Dipped Slightly from Prior Year to $14.2 B in 2018

Apr 25, 2019

Digital advertising platforms at local radio stations led revenue growth across the industry again last year, according to the first quarter edition of BIA Advisory Services’ 2019 Investing In Radio® Market Report. While over-the-air advertising remained a relatively flat $13.3 billion (down 1.6% from $13.5 in 2017), digital income rose 8.1 percent to $923 million, continuing a trend that began six years ago. Combined 2018 revenues of $14.2 billion positioned radio as the fifth most significant local advertising platform, behind direct mail, mobile, online/digital, and local television.

For the top 10 billing stations, a few adjustments in rankings occurred in 2018, while Washington, DC all-news station WTOP-FM maintained the top spot with $69 million in advertising revenue. Los Angeles Hot AC station KBIG-FM moved up to third position with $46 million and New York-NY Lite AC station WLTW-FM moved to fourth with $44 million.

top 10 radio stations 2018

“Although local radio stations are still important players in their markets and are managing to maintain their position in the top five advertising platforms, we do expect the OTA advertising revenue of U.S. radio stations to decrease this year by 1-2 percent and through the next few years,” said Mark Fratrik, SVP and Chief Economist, BIA Advisory Services. Fratrik forecasts that combined radio revenues will remain relatively flat for at least the next five years, while digital platforms will hit $1 billion by 2020.

Following a strong year of transactions in 2017 (due to Entercom acquiring the CBS radio stations in 2017), the volume was down to a level similar to previous years, with 609 stations being sold at an estimated value of $745 million.

“If there is some regulatory relief at the FCC, we would expect the number and dollar volume of radio station sales to increase,” said Fratrik.


Investing In® Radio Publications

The 2019 first-quarter edition of Investing In Radio® Market Report provides a complete profile of every Nielsen Audio market, with historic and projected demographic and financial statistics. It is available for purchase online. The report can be purchased here. Information in the Investing In Radio books is also available in Media Access Pro™, a data and analytical service that delivers comprehensive information on the radio, television and newspaper industries.

Also available is the Investing In Radio® 2018 Ownership Report that delivers a detailed analysis and guide of all owners in the Nielsen Audio rated markets and non-rated markets.

More BIA Forecasts

BIA’s full U.S local advertising forecasts for top media are available in BIA ADVantage, which provides online access to all of the firm’s forecasts including those contained in the Investing In Radio publication, offering subscribers a direct view of national and their local market ad spending. For more details, email

About BIA Advisory Services

BIA Advisory Services is the leading authority for data-centered research, analysis, strategic consulting and valuation services for the local media industry. Since 1983, BIA has been a valuable resource for traditional and digital media companies, brands and agencies, the financial and legal community serving media and telecom, as well as the FCC and other government agencies. Today, we offer comprehensive local market advertising intelligence in our BIA ADVantage data platform to help clients discover the path to their best opportunities. Learn more about our offerings at