The past year was a disaster for much of the media business, and so far a recovery appears more of a wish than a reality.
Advertising revenue for the three major television networks skidded 6.9% in the first quarter of 1991, one of the worst slides on record. Business was also hurt by advertisers who pulled their commercials when the Gulf War erupted, network executives say.
Now some of that advertising is starting to find its way back, but it remains stuck below prewar levels. Robert Coen, senior vice president at the McCann-Erickson ad agency, said the comeback will occur in 1992 when the Olympics and political elections pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the advertising economy.
Publishers of newspapers and magazines were walloped even harder than television by the advertising slump, but still cling to hopes of a turnaround later this year. Magazine advertising revenue in recent months has been off 6% to 7% from the previous year. Newspaper ad revenues were down 6.9% in the first quarter, and many papers have reported double-digit declines.
"While the decline may have stopped, an upturn has not yet begun," said Robert F. Erburu, chairman of the American Newspaper Publishers Assn. and chairman of Times Mirror Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times.