After years of declining revenues — including double-digit losses in 2014 — Chicago radio leveled off in 2015.
Income from all sources totaled $376.048 million — down just barely from the previous year’s $376.231 million, according to figures supplied by the major station groups and compiled by the accounting firm of Miller, Kaplan, Arase & Co.
Top biller again was WBBM AM 780/WCFS FM 105.9, with the CBS Radio all-news combo up 11.7 percent, thanks mainly to Chicago Cubs baseball broadcasts. Overall, however, the company’s seven-station group was down 4 percent. Combined with an 8 percent drop the previous year, it was a key factor cited in the ouster last month of Rod Zimmerman as senior vice president and market manager and Mark Day as vice president and director of sales.
CBS Radio's losers were adult album alternative WXRT FM 93.1 (down 21.3 percent), country WUSN FM 99.5 (down 19.9 percent) and rhythmic Top 40 WBBM FM 96.3 (down 11.7 percent). US 99.5 faced a new competitor, iHeartMedia’s country WEBG FM 95.5, which dropped 57.8 percent from its previous billing as Spanish regional Mexican WNUA.
Overall, iHeartMedia's six-station group was up 4.4 percent, including urban adult-contemporary WVAZ FM 103.7 (up 22.2 percent), adult contemporary WLIT FM 93.9 (up 15.8 percent), Top 40 WKSC FM 103.5 (up 11.5 percent) and gospel WGRB AM 1390 (up 3.1 percent). Urban contemporary WGCI FM 107.5 declined 4.7 percent.
Hubbard Radio Chicago declined 2.7 percent overall, with classic hits WDRV FM 97.1 down 11.2 percent and adult contemporary WSHE FM 100.3 down 9.8 percent after rebranding last March. But hot adult-contemporary WTMX FM 101.9 remained a strong No. 2 biller in the market, increasing its revenue 3.1 percent.
Without Cubs baseball broadcasts for the first time in decades, Tribune Media news/talk WGN AM 720 declined 16.1 percent, but remained the No. 3 biller. Once again in 2016, the Cubs are on the move, this time switching from WBBM Newsradio to The Score.
Cumulus Media saw dramatic increases at alternative rock WKQX FM 101.1 (up 47.3 percent) and classic hits WLS FM 94.7 (up 26.1 percent). News/talk WLS AM 890 declined 14.7 percent, and classic rock WLUP FM 97.9 was down 1.6 percent. Overall the four-station group rose 12.8 percent.
Reflecting the increased influence of Hispanic media, the two top Spanish stations outpaced the market. Spanish Broadcasting System regional Mexican WLEY FM 107.9 increased 42.2 percent, and Univision Radio regional Mexican WOJO FM 105.1 was up 5.4 percent.
Here is Chicago radio’s cash register for 2015: