Down market: Why 2014 was a lousy year for Chicago radio

Financial declineThink you had a tough year? Chicago radio had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

Total radio revenue in Chicago plunged more than 10 percent in 2014. Income from all sources totaled $376.231 million — down from the previous year’s $419.715 million, according to figures supplied by the station groups and compiled by the accounting firm of Miller, Kaplan, Arase & Co.

CBS Radio again led the market with WBBM AM 780/WCFS FM 105.9, although the all-news combo and home of Bears football declined 6.5 percent with revenue of $39.215 million. Also reeling were CBS Radio's Top 40 WBBM FM 96.3 (down 10.1 percent), sports/talk WSCR AM 670 (down 11.5 percent), country WUSN FM 99.5 (down 8.6 percent), and classic hits WJMK FM 104.3 (down 15.7 percent). Only adult album alternative WXRT FM 93.1 was up — by 2.1 percent.

Faring no better was iHeartMedia, which had a change at the top of its Chicago cluster in light of losses at Top 40 WKSC FM 103.5 (down 13.2 percent), urban adult-contemporary WVAZ FM 102.7 (down 11.4 percent), urban contemporary WGCI FM 107.5 (down 4.1 percent), adult contemporary WLIT FM 93.9 (down 2.2 percent), former regional Mexican WNUA FM 95.5 [now country WEBG] (down 17.8 percent), and gospel WGRB AM 1390 (down 5.8 percent).

Coming off a banner year in 2013, Hubbard Radio also saw sales plummet at its hot adult-contemporary WTMX FM 101.9 (down 17.4 percent), classic hits WDRV FM 97.1 (down 22.1 percent) and adult contemporary WILV FM 100.3 (down 15.6 percent). A Chicago management shakeup ensued there, too.

Three Cumulus Media stations posted the market’s most dramatic losses, including classic rock WLUP FM 97.9 (down 37.6 percent), classic hits WLS FM 94.7 (down 30.8 percent), and news/talk WLS AM 890 (down 27.5 percent). But the company also had one of the year’s few winners, alternative rock WKQX FM 101.1 (up 41.3 percent).

Despite a tumultuous year at news/talk WGN AM 720, revenue was unchanged at the Tribune Media flagship. While the station cut its historic ties with Cubs baseball and stumbled with an ill-fated sports/talk venture, it scored with Blackhawks hockey.

Here’s Chicago radio’s cash register for 2014:

Figures compiled by Miller, Kaplan, Arase & Co.

Figures compiled by Miller, Kaplan, Arase & Co.