In our ongoing series about how radio will recover from the COVID-19 revenue busting pandemic, we hear from Bustos Media President Amador Bustos today
Radio Ink: The Vaccine is here, what sense are you hearing from the communities your stations serve about it, even though the roll-out is slow?
Amador Bustos: From where I stand, the Hispanic communities we serve in Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington, there is frustration due to the lack of vaccine supply and poor distribution. I also often hear that communities of color may be more hesitant about taking the vaccine. It is true. Our community was skeptical when the vaccines were still in development. I heard a lot of folks saying they were not going to be the first vaccinated. However, now that the efficacy and safety has been shown to be very high, there is nothing but excitement and anticipation about getting the vaccine by the great majority of our listeners.
Radio Ink: What is the business community feel in the markets you are operating in?
Amador Bustos: The small and mid-size retailers we work with are desperate to see a greater number of vaccinations. They are eager to see the community spread reduce faster. Since there is a lot of talk about “new virus variants,” and people are getting tired of the social distancing requirement, they feel the massive vaccination campaign will be the only way to get bars and restaurants fully operational, as well as, the restrictions on larger entertainment events lifted. For our radio group, close to 45% of our revenue came from those advertising categories. Almost none of it has come back. We are hopeful the outdoor “Jaripeos” (bull riding and festivals) will be allowed by May or June and the big indoor dances and concerts by August or September.
Radio Ink: How are pacings looking compared to the middle of 2020?
Amador Bustos: In the initial stage of the pandemic (April to June), we lost up to 70% of our revenue compared to 2019. In the mid-stage (July to October), we were literally saved by expenditures from the U.S. census, political ads plus, state and local health department informational advertising. The first two have now dried up but the third continues to be a life-line. During October to January some of the more traditional clients like, auto, fast food, cell companies, furniture stores, attorneys, dentists and chiropractors started to invest again but at 50% of their 2019 levels. As mentioned before, until the hospitality and entertainment industry return full force, we will continue to be down at least 30% from our previous high.
Radio Ink: Do you think some form of work from home will be with radio for a while?
Amador Bustos: I would say PERMANENTLY! The employer as well as, the employees have seen the benefit of working remotely. I have three single mothers who are DJs or work in the traffic department. They used to commute for 35 minutes to the office on a good day; and 45-50 minutes on most days. Since their on-air shows have lost no quality, due to the remote equipment we had to buy for their work from home, all of them have already asked if they could continue to do it remotely. To me, this is a win-win situation: Reduced stress for them and reduced cost for me.
Radio Ink: Overall, how is your company doing?
Amador Bustos: The best and honest way to answer is “hanging in there.” Since our stations do not get much revenue from national accounts, we depend heavily on local retail which continues to be decimated. The concerning aspect of the current situation is I know for a fact, at least 35% of those businesses which have closed, will NOT reopen…even if the pandemic were over next week.
Radio Ink: Is Radio out of the woods yet?
Amador Bustos: My answer above gives you a clear view of our situation. The state of affairs is likely to be the same for most small and mid-size broadcasters. The larger radio companies, with significant concentrations in larger markets, may be in better shape. However, I think they are still in the “woods” and therefore, have diminished visibility with no GPS to guide them out of the forest.
Amador Bustos is President of Bustos Media and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]