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Radio giant Entercom calling for late ’18 revenue gains, but Wall Street skeptical

Entercom Communications CEO David Field told analysts that he still believes that "a radio Renaissance is a real possibility" and repeated his previous statements that the nation's No. 2 radio group could boost revenues in the fourth quarter — which would reverse recent revenue declines.

Entercom CEO David Field, in his corporate headquarters in Bala Cynwyd in September 2018.
Entercom CEO David Field, in his corporate headquarters in Bala Cynwyd in September 2018.Read moreBOB FERNANDEZ / Staff

Entercom Communications Corp. stock on Wednesday regained some of the ground it lost after a Wall Street battering over third-quarter earnings.

Stock in the Philadelphia-based radio giant jumped 7.6 percent to $7.37 a share Wednesday. The Entercom stock had plunged 13.8 percent on Tuesday, to $6.85, on news that third-quarter revenues fell 4 percent.

Entercom chief executive David Field told analysts Tuesday that he still believed that "a radio renaissance is a real possibility" and repeated previous statements that the nation's No. 2 radio group is expected to boost revenues 4 percent in the fourth quarter, reversing recent declines.

Entercom's 235 radio stations reach more than 100 million listeners a week, including those in Philadelphia through the former CBS Radio, which Entercom acquired in late 2017.

Entercom — which has plans to relocate its headquarters to downtown Philadelphia from suburban Bala Cynwyd, the Inquirer and Daily News reported earlier this year — has struggled with a weak local advertising market and competition for advertising dollars from digital platforms such as Facebook and Google. Its stock price is down more than 30 percent since it announced the deal for CBS Radio.

This year, Field has moved on several fronts to cut costs at the merged Entercom/CBS Radio operation, reformat radio stations for broader audiences, expand its sports rights for radio broadcasts, add podcasts, and launch a national radio network with the Entercom/CBS Radio stations in major cities.

"We are also beginning to see an early influx of sports gambling-related ad revenue," Field said. "While currently, only a few states have legalized sports gambling, as that expands, we are very well positioned to capitalize on that emerging high-growth category through our leadership position in sports radio."

The radio company also has extricated itself from a disastrous partnership with United States Traffic Network, based in Malvern. United States Traffic Network provided traffic updates for former CBS Radio stations and sold advertisements around those updates, funneling some of the ad revenue back to Entercom/CBS Radio. But the traffic network stopped making those payments this year because of financial trouble, and Entercom broke off the partnership, saying it would do its own traffic updates and handle the advertising itself.

"In our last call, I suggested that we saw considerable evidence that we were turning the corner," Field said. "And today, our confidence in that turn is even greater. We have successfully completed all of our divestitures, extricated ourselves from the USTN fiasco and launched a very successful new traffic ad business."