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Salem Prepares to Enter U.S. Latino Market

Salem Media Group Inc. was set to debut this month a new digital streaming platform for the U.S. Latino market.

The Camarillo Christian and conservative broadcaster, publisher and online content distributor calls its new bilingual venture Salem Si and has tapped broadcast veteran David Cruz as vice president to lead it.

Cruz called Salem Si an opportunity for the company to serve a Latino audience that is mobile, wants access to digital content on all devices and likely lives in multi-generational, bilingual households.

“America’s 60 million Latinos don’t care what language knowledge comes in as long as they can access and understand it,” Cruz said in a statement. “Plus, they want content that is useful so they can make their lives better on their own.”David Santrella, president of broadcast media, said the company was excited that Cruz and Salem were collaborating on reaching and serving the youngest and fastest-growing audience demographic in the country.

The challenges of the coronavirus pandemic have accelerated the shift in listening patterns by Latinos who want timely, relevant and accurate information live and on-demand, he added.

“David’s extensive background as one of the country’s established and well-known Latino broadcast network journalists, makes him the ideal person to lead this new digital initiative with Salem Media Group,” Santrella said in a statement.

Cruz began his career with Spanish International Network, the predecessor to Univision, the Spanish language television network owned by Univision Communications Inc. in Miami. He then moved onto various news assignments with CBS and NBC television network stations before becoming the anchor for the first syndicated, bilingual news talk program for CNN Spanish Radio and Radio Centro in Latin America. Prior to joining Salem, Cruz was a partner at BrightFlash Media, a multilingual digital media content development and production company for broadcast, online and mobile platforms that he founded in Ventura. He also served as on-air talent and director of Corporate and Community Partnerships in emerging markets for iHeartMedia Inc. in Burbank.

In-house ad agencySalem reported in November net income of $329,000 (1 cent a share) for the third quarter ending on Sept. 30, compared with a net loss of $20 million (-75 cents) in the same period a year earlier. Revenue dropped 5.4 percent to $60.6 million.In the past year, the share price of Salem stock has dropped by 17 percent through Jan. 7. On Jan. 13, shares closed at $1.47.

In a conference call with analysts to discuss the quarterly earnings, neither Salem Chief Executive Edward Atsinger nor Evan Masyr, the chief financial officer, mentioned Salem Si.Atsinger, however, made passing reference to two new areas of investment – Salem Surround, a digital multimedia advertising agency; and SalemNow, an on-demand pay-per-view streaming movie site launched in the second quarter.

Salem Surround is a growth engine for the company, Atsinger said.“It’s generating pretty regularly 40 percent-plus revenue growth on a quarter over prior year quarter basis,” he said. “We don’t see that slowing down too drastically, at least within the next several quarters.”SalemNow contributed to growth on the digital side, bringing the total up by $7.8 million or 107 percent over the third quarter of the prior year, Atsinger said.

“So we continue to see encouraging returns from our investment in Salem Surround and more recently SalemNow,” he added.

Political ad spending was also a big boost to the quarter.

Atsinger said the company recorded $1.9 million in political revenue, compared to only $200,000 in the third quarter of 2019.

“The $1.9 million compares favorably to both the third quarter of 2018 when we had $1.2 million of political revenue and interesting enough for the third quarter of 2016 when we had $1.5 million of political revenue,” Atsinger added.The political spending was noted in a research report on Salem by Michael Kupinski, director of research for Noble Capital Markets Inc. in Boca Raton, Fla.Salem’s revenue was higher than his projection of $57.1 million.

“The largest variance to our revenue estimate was due to better-than-expected broadcast revenues, particularly political advertising, $1.9 million versus our $1.2 million estimate,” Kupinski said in the note.

Kupinski also noted in the report that Atsinger had said in the fourth quarter political advertising would be north of $2 million, and likely get a boost from the two U.S. Senate run-off elections in Georgia on Jan. 5.

“We have stations in Atlanta that should get some additional revenue for that,” Atsinger said in the conference call. “So it looks like a robust political year for us.”

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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