Saga Has A Frustrating First Quarter


CEO Ed Christian says he was not happy with the performance of his company compared to its potential. On a same station basis for the quarter ended March 31, Saga’s net revenue decreased $1.2 million to $26.8 million.

Political revenue for the quarter was $63,000 compared to $278,000. Overall, national was down by $502,600. Christian said, regional was up by $300,000, but it didn’t help the shortfall in national or the absence of political. “What I have said, I must admit that I am not content with our performance compared to our potential. I had set a higher bar for our local sales departments than the company-wide $300,000.”

Christian said, early this year, he warned his managers that things would be tough. “I sent an e-mail to all of our market managers welcoming them to a new sales reality and advise them then that I thought Q1 would be troubling for a number of reasons. And I also discussed the subtle but important changes that would be occurring in our sales performance. There was nothing in the e-mail that can be considered earth-shaking or cause crying and weeping. Essentially, what it did was discuss what I believe were necessary changes in sales strategy and sales tactics. First off was the need for a laser-like focus on the local direct business development, especially in the service industry. I can’t tell you how long the lists are of various different service-related companies that are – could be and should be prime users of radio advertising. Additionally, we need a renewed effort to reaffirm our rock-solid position in our communities. This is especially true with the local advertising agencies. These agencies and their clients need continued reassertion that we can drive business to clients and that a media vibe would not be complete without our group of stations.”

Christian said most of his got the message, but some didn’t. “Our larger markets already understood the above, and I’m sincerely appreciative of their efforts in Q1. Unfortunately, several stations chose to stay with their well-traveled and worn past and ignored the fact that business and the reality of doing business is changing. I personally apologize that we are not effective in a complete conversion as it is our responsibility at Saga and the management level to ensure that a redirection had been understood, embraced and a compliance had occurred. It’s a complicated sales universe right now. No question about it. There is so much misinformation in all base thoughts that are being circulated. Radio is not over. True, we are challenged, but there are false statistics that are used to predict our future.”

Looking ahead, Christian said national is still down while local is up and growing.

Saga owns or operates 79 FM radio stations, 34 AM radio stations in 27 markets. Christian said, “We have great assets, great markets and we handpicked the markets for their resiliency over the years.”


  1. Saga has long been known for their programming savvy and have leaned on that over the years and probably too long. Tough to pivot, send out an email and expect a sales culture to appear.
    Apologies are okay for one quarter, what excuse will be used when they don’t make second quarter and or beyond?
    The feedback I hear is that advertising dollars are shifting out of radio, more so than other electronic media, into digital. Causing local radio dollars to shrink. While service businesses can differentiate themselves more so than a typical retailer and they should have higher margins allowing for an ad budget, I don’t see them being the savior of local spot radio. This sector has traditionally relied on referrals to sell their services. And the biggest referral source today is online. The radio groups who are being successful at slowing or halting the digital dollar drain have a viable digital offering.

    The real question is whether or not Ed is in sync with the reality of today’s marketplace? Time will tell.

  2. Sad. But not surprising. Quiet reductions in force; can’t cut to your way to prosperity. Inability to retain top programming/sales talent. Micromanagement. Dictation. “Leading” by intimidation. Silly and inconsistent corporate programming leadership. Unfortunately no longer a company with an eye to the future. Very sad indeed.


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