Comcast rises to the top in what may be a record bad year for media companies

It sure has been a tough year for media companies, thanks to advertisers slashing budgets and consumers cutting back on spending. But just how bad has it been? According to Advertising Age, 2009 is on track to show the first-ever decline in media company sales since 1981, when the trade publication began a survey tracking the industry's top 100 companies.

The tumble in ad sales has actually helped one company move up in the AdAge ranking of media companies: Comcast Corp. (CMCSA). The cable operator comes out on top in the latest survey, helped by its steady growth in cable-service subscriptions. Comcast is now the biggest U.S. media company after Time Warner (TWX), which spun off its cable division and saw its ad sales plunge 15% in the first half of 2009. Time Warner had held the survey's top spot since 1995, the publication reports.