On Thu, Sep. 1, 2022, BIA’s CEO & Founder, Tom Buono, sent a brief, yet significant, email to his team saying that on that day, the company was celebrating its 39th year. He thanked everyone for their dedication and BIA’s continuing success.
Now, 39 years is a lot of years – not the big 4-0, but significant when you consider the last couple of years, and all of the other challenging circumstances the company has survived and thrived through with its clients. So, we decided to take a moment to reflect on where we’ve been and what is coming next.
The exercise has left us with an even stronger enthusiasm for the next 12 months and beyond as we continue to help our clients find their best opportunities in local media.
In 1983, while David Bowie was enjoying his number one spot on the charts with Let’s Dance, crowds were racing to see Star Wars Episode VI, and Sally Ride became the first woman in space, Tom Buono was busy starting Broadcast Investment Analysts (BIA), which subsequently became known as BIA Financial Network, Inc. (BIAfn) of companies.
When asked, Tom said he had one main goal when he founded the company – to create an innovative space where qualified team members wanted to work together to solve problems.
Today BIAfn is the main name for a series of companies that include BIA Advisory Services, BIA Capital and SpectraRep. All distinct companies yet focused on different ways to serve the media industry.
Let’s start with the BIA Advisory Services side. Some of the first assignments we performed for clients focused on valuations using the proprietary data BIA was creating and delivering to the industry.
The goal with the books and MAPro was to help everyone in media do the work they needed to do, whether that was buying or selling a station, entering the media business, running a station or broadcast group, developing new products, tracking digital trends, or building out sales teams.
Our MAPro database approach was the first of its kind and its impact and value continues today for clients.
In 1992, Tom formed BIA Capital with his colleague Gregg Johnson to provide investment banking services to the media industry. Since inception, the group has completed more than $2 billion in transactions. This also led to the creation of BIA Digital Partners, a company that raised and managed two mezzanine funds, investing over $300 million in 38 portfolio companies.
While the BIA companies were expanding, Tom was intent on building a good culture across BIA. He created company pillars on which teams were built. The most important one focused on creating an environment that valued each employee for their contribution.
To this day, this is a central pillar, and we believe it’s the reason the company has retained so much of its talent for many years. Multiple team members have been with BIA over 25 years, and a significant number have been with BIA for over 15 years.
Plus, we’ve grown our team significantly over the last year to expand our forecasting and analysis. As you read this, there’s no doubt the names of your favorite BIA people jump to mind, and you know them as marked professionals and probably friends.
In 2000, SpectraRep was formed to develop new revenue opportunities from TV’s conversion from analog to digital. We pioneered “datacasting”, the sending of encrypted data & video to targeted receivers primarily for public safety and education.
When the pandemic hit, SpectraRep worked with many states to use public television networks to provide remote learning to students in rural areas. Today, the company is highly engaged in ATSC 3.0 to help broadcasters seize the opportunity of generate non-broadcasting revenue and is one of the few firms working in this important arena. BIA Advisory Services estimates that non-broadcasting data transmissions could result in annual revenue of about $10 billion in the future.
In the early 2000s, the company expanded quickly through acquisitions. Some of the notable ones include the purchase of Dataworld in 2005, which added FCC tracking software and data to the BIA databases. Then in 2008, the purchase of The Kelsey Group added digital layers to our advertising forecast. It has all worked together to expand our abilities to answer our clients’ questions more deeply and effectively.
When asked about the proudest moment for the company, Tom will answer decisively that it was testifying before Congress on the state of the radio industry, which helped to lead to consolidation and growth of the industry.
At the heart of BIA has been its capacity to be a bit ahead of the industry as we work diligently to maintain our trusted advisor status with our clients.
Starting in 2009 and going for over eight years, BIA hosted trailblazing local media conferences. They were considered “the” place to hear about trends and activities in media and we proudly hosted incredible speakers from across media including Bob Pittman of iHeart Media, Jeff Smulyan of Emmis, Gavin Newsom from California and Ted Leonsis founder, chairman, principal partner and chief executive officer of Monumental Sports & Entertainment.
Enhancing our conference years was the launch of our local advertising platform, BIA ADVantage. This product was developed to make it easier to access our ever-expanding U.S. local advertising forecast that covers 16 media channels and 96 important business verticals. It also delivers visualizations around our data to tell the stories our clients need to understand as it relates to revenue opportunities.
To date, BIA ADVantage has been adopted by many of the largest and smallest broadcast groups and is seen as a valuable tool for setting the correct course of actions for local sales teams and informing executive teams.
When the claws of the pandemic sunk into BIA and the industry, we went to work harder than ever. We took much of our data and insights that usually appear behind our firewall and brought it out to continuously analyze and offer critical thinking on what was happening. Our goal was to help anyone involved in or with media businesses find revenue and mitigate challenges. We were in awe that more than a 1,000+ people would join us on webinars to provide them with insights to make important discussions.
Simultaneously, our valuation team spent innumerable hours on projects helping with selling and buying of stations and the emergence of some from bankruptcy. Our strategic consulting team did more listening than ever to hear and help solve the problems businesses and leaders were facing. The pandemic gave us all big problems to solve, and we are always motived to help find solutions.
Now, looking forward, and as we approach 40 years of business in 2023, we are acutely aware that our clients need us to do even more to help them. We are up to the challenge. We are investing in our products and data, growing our team and expanding our services and outreach as we renew our commitment to deliver the advisory services our clients require in today’s changing media landscape.
As Tom puts it, we are intensely focused on our goal of remaining an indispensable part of the research and strategy team for companies in media.
Teamwork, Dedication, and Gratitude. These are our guiding principles.
From everyone at BIA to our clients, industry colleagues, partners and more, we want to say that we could not have reached this far without your support. Thank you. Onwards to more challenges and successes.