NPR plans conservative budget following down year in revenue

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NPR is planning for a relatively flat budget for the upcoming fiscal year after falling short of revenue projections this year due to a decline in sponsorship income. 

The network is “budgeting conservatively as we get past some of the economic uncertainty that’s happening right now and keeping a tight control on costs to be responsive and flexible to any changes throughout the year,” CFO Daphne Kwon told the NPR board’s finance committee Wednesday. 

NPR responded to the sponsorship shortfall with drastic cuts that have included a 10% reduction in staff and canceling podcasts such as Louder than a Riot and Invisibilia.

NPR is forecasting to end the current fiscal year $22 million below budget for revenue, with corporate sponsorship income more than $30 million below FY22. The current fiscal year ends this month. 

But because of the cuts, it plans to end the year nearly break-even in operating cash, Kwon said. It had budgeted for a deficit budget of more than $5 million in operating cash. 

In its budget for the upcoming fiscal year, NPR is planning for revenue and expenses to be roughly flat compared to FY23, Kwon said. 

Income projections are flat “partially because of the uncertain economic environment for the next 12 months,” Kwon said. “Sponsorship, our largest contributor, has been especially difficult to predict as sponsors are holding back dollars until the last minute, giving us less visibility into the future.”

Kwon said she anticipates slight revenue growth in two categories in FY24: 2% growth in sponsorship revenue and a 3% increase in station fee revenue.

NPR plans to leave in place “a number of cost-saving practices from fiscal ’23,” Kwon said. It will not increase its workforce above what has already been approved, she said. No “material capital initiatives or investments” are budgeted for the upcoming fiscal year, she said. 

If NPR encounters additional budget shortfalls, Kwon said, it can turn to “non-people areas … for expense relief.”

NPR’s capital expenditures budget will remain in maintenance mode for the upcoming fiscal year. However, the network is tracking “some end-of-life deadlines coming up for some of our equipment as the headquarters building and data center pass their 10th anniversary,” she said. 

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