2000 wow! 2001 ow!

Those were the TV and radio days; Veronis Suhler says they won't come again soon

It will probably be a long time before the industry has another year like it had in 2000. According to the just-issued Veronis Suhler Communications Industry Report, broadcast TV posted a 17.2% revenue gain to a record $33.3 billion in 2000, fueled by outsized political spending, the summer Olympics and the end of the dotcom branding binge. Pretax earnings soared even higher, up 31% to $9 billion.

The cable/satellite sector posted even greater growth: Revenue was up 29% to $57 billion, with pretax earnings up 43% to $17.4 billion.

The radio sector also had a remarkable year with revenues up 50% to $7 billion and pretax earnings up 59% to $2.7 billion.

That was then. This is ow.

As Veronis Suhler, the New York-based media banking and consulting firm was quick to point out, those heady days are gone. "We've seen the media and information business shift rapidly from one of its best years into what is certain to be one of its worst in a decade," said James P. Rutherfurd, Veronis executive vice president.

In July, Veronis issued its forecast for the 2001 to 2005 period, predicting that ad growth would be about half what it was for the previous five years. For 2001, the firm predicted that broadcast-TV ad revenues would be down at least 2.5%. And that was before the Sept. 11 attack, which most media executives say exacerbated the downturn. But no revised forecast yet from Veronis.

No one has a firm handle on when the current slump will turn around, but Rutherfurd predicts that the start of the recovery will occur sometime in 2002.