SBS Reports Strong Year-End Revenue Gains and Listenership Rise Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

Raúl Alarcón Jr.
Ryan Stone

“We have 35 years of market knowledge and are able to surgically program to the multiple Latino communities,” says Alarcón, photographed July 13 at his home in Coral Gables. “We stay ahead of the trends. Sometimes we’re caught by surprise, but not often.”

Latin media company SBS reported Q4 revenue increases that amounted to “our best annual financial showing in over 15 years,” according to company chairman and CEO Raúl Alarcón. SBS will announce its numbers during an investor’s call today (April 1). For the quarter-ended December 31, 2019, the Miami-based company’s consolidated net revenue totaled $46.1 million compared to $39.6 million for the same prior year period, resulting in an increase of 16%.

“Our radio segment net revenue increased 15% due to increases in local, special events, network, and digital which were partially offset by a decrease in national sales,” said Alarcón. “Our television segment net revenue increased 31%, due to the increase in local sales which were partially offset by decreases in national sales. Consolidated net revenue excluding political, a non-GAAP measure, totaled $45.8 million compared to $36.9 million for the same prior year period, resulting in an increase of 24%.”

SBS is best known for its powerful Spanish-language radio network, which owns and operates stations in the top U.S. markets, including 106.7 FM El Zol in Miami and Mega 97.9 FM in New York, the most-listened to Spanish language station in the country. SBS also operates AIRE Radio Networks, a national platform of over 275 affiliated stations, and owns network TV operation MegaTV and streaming service LaMusica.

The company’s live entertainment division is known for its massive concerts, including Calibash in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. But SBS’ biggest musical clout lies in its radio network.

Mega in New York, in particular, is the No. 1 station in the market for persons 18-49, regardless of language, according to Nielsen’s February 2020 ratings book, a position of dominance it has largely maintained for the past year.

Listenership has only grown since the beginning of March with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have seen an uptick, in particular in New York,” said COO Albert Rodriguez. “We are No. 1 in New York regardless of demo. In Miami we are No. 1 among Hispanics [with El Zol 106.7 FM]. In Puerto Rico, we are No. 1 and No. 2 overall. The talents are committed. We’re playing the right music. And we’re doing a lot of COVID-19 updates.”

SBS’ surge coincides with a new Nielsen report that found that 83% of consumers say they’re listening to “as much or more radio than before.”

As with local television viewership, radio listenership rises due to trust and to relatability with on-air personalities who “present a connection to the real world that listeners gravitate toward and trust,” says the report. In SBS stations, “We’re being very sensitive to the local communities. We want people to know we’re here for them,” says Jesús Salas, executive VP of programming. “There’s a lot of people at home, and they’re listening to the stations more than before. Not only to escape anxiety, but also to know what’s happening super locally. What places are open for delivery, what mom and pop stores are open. We’re playing the hits, but we’re giving them news, every hour, the entire day.”

And while advertising spend has gone down, as is the case across the board in all media, “clients are not canceling,” says Rodríguez. “They’re postponing and rescheduling. We’re still very optimistic for the year. We believe the comeback, according to what our brand buyers and partners are telling us, will be stronger than ever.”

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