|Urban One plays (foot) ball
Urban One loves the Washington Redskins – enough to buy flagship WTEM/980.
CEO Alfred Liggins kept the sports format when Urban One bought Red Zebra’s Richmond-market “ESPN 950” WXGI last year, even adding in a translator. Now Liggins buys Red Zebra’s last station, “980 the Team” WTEM Washington. It deepens Urban One’s commitment to its founding market, even though the sports format is outside its wheelhouse. We’ll get the sale price for WTEM when the filing’s at the FCC, and even the Washington Post doesn’t have a bead on that. But it hears of “two factors which drove Daniel Snyder’s decision to dismantle his radio network.” #1 was “a desire to focus more attention on the NFL Redskins, who have posted just six winning seasons in his 19 years as owner.” Snyder is the principal owner of both the franchise and Red Zebra Broadcasting. #2 was “an inability to turn the stations into a profit center.” Red Zebra paid top-of-the-market prices for its rimshot D.C. FMs plus WTEM. With the sale of WTEM (50,000 watts daytime/5,000 watts at night), Snyder agrees to keep the games, plus pre- and post-game, on 980. (Though the Post wonders about the future of the 7am-11m show, featuring former Redskin Chris Cooley and Kevin Sheehan.) Note that in 2017, the team started sharing the games (plus pre- and post-) with Cumulus talker WMAL-AM/FM (630/105.9). Sidebar - with Urban One's equity interest in the nearby MGM National Harbor resort and casino, does it have an eye on legalized sports betting? Broker on the sale – Greg Guy of Maryland-based Patrick Communications.
iHeart pushes back against two creditor groups in court.
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It’s yin and yang – the “Term Loan/Priority Guarantee Note Group” and the “Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors” demand a mountain of documents from iHeart. Then the company responds that it’s already “produced hundreds of documents in response to 32 document requests.” And that what these creditors really want is to probe for news about what iHeart may’ve discussed with Liberty Media (a potential investor). Also other details that iHeart says aren’t relevant to the narrow question of whether it should retain both Moelis & Company and LionTree as advisors. Yesterday’s NOW story had the creditors griping that using both companies could run up the outside-advisory bill by as much as $90 million. But iHeart says the real goal of the two creditor groups is to “conduct sweeping confirmation [plan] discovery under the guise of a retention dispute.” We’ll see how the Houston bankruptcy judge rules. Depositions should begin today and finish Thursday, and that’s why the “Official Committee” styled its request as an “emergency motion.”
Curiosity runs high in L.A. about today’s reissued PPMs.
Pulling out four households – that could easily be more than a dozen meters – from the last seven Nielsen monthly PPMs is unheard-of. All Nielsen said last week is that the four deleted households “did not meet our compliance and data integrity standards.” Nielsen did snag the issue before it issued the most recent April 2018 numbers. But today’s reissues will cover seven books before that, back to October 2017, then November, December, the Holiday book, January 2018, February and March.
Call it “The Prometheus translator traffic jam.”
Dozens of new-translator grants showed up in yesterday’s “FCC Broadcast Actions” stamped “Informal objection filed 05/16/2018 by Prometheus et. al.” That’s the Philadelphia-based Prometheus Radio Project, whose ninth-inning filing on behalf of Low Power FMs will at least slow down processing of many translator applications. Among those affected in Monday’s actions – Cox, looking for 92.3 in San Antonio. Saga, seeking 94.1 in Keene, NH. Paul Stone’s Southern Stone (99.9 in Daytona Beach). Jon Yinger’s Christian Broadcasting System (98.7, Holt, Michigan). And Bobby Caldwell’s EAB of Russellville (93.1 in Russellville, Arkansas). But mostly, the sand in the gears affects smaller owners of AM stations, like Hancock Communications, which wants 92.1 in Hawesville, KY, and Coloff Media, which was close to the finish line for 102.3 in Waterloo, Iowa.
Prometheus even gums up the works for older “minor mod” translator filings.
The attention is on the hundreds of new-translator applications by AM station owners – but check out the four-year effort by Sun Signals LLC for a “minor change” modification for its 103.1 in Greenwich, CT. The informal objection by Prometheus Radio Project applies to it, too. Bridgelight LLC and Dennis Jackson both filed objections in 2014, and now there’s the Prometheus roadblock. In Las Vegas, Ondas de Vida Network Inc. filed for a “minor mod” of its 94.7 back in October 2014. That’s been held up by objections, and now here’s Prometheus, piling on. What does Prometheus want? Better “spectrum balancing” between translators, Low Power FMs and boosters. Public interest group Prometheus has been filing at the Commission on behalf of community radio (and preserving spectrum for it) for a couple of decades. But this might be its most consequential filing yet. It all depends on how the Ajit Pai FCC handles it.
The Prometheus translator filing is “A textbook case of process abuse,” says K.M. Richards.
The veteran broadcaster/consultant just wrote FCC Chair Ajit Pai (and shares the letter with NOW). Richards says “While I have no direct interest in the outcome of the many translator applications that are pending (none of my clients have applications pending), I have been following the progress of what I believe to be your most significant initiative to assist broadcasters who have been struggling with standalone AM stations. I have read the Informal Objection filed by the Prometheus Radio Project against those applications that have not already been granted, and in my opinion it is a textbook case of process abuse.” Richards says “I also point out, as proof of Prometheus’ abuse of the process, that they have not made even a pretext of proper research before filing. They have simply filed their ‘comment’ in every open translator application.” Richards concludes – “I would like to urge you to have the Commission take up the question of Prometheus’ filing, with the specific focus on whether they have indeed abused the comment process. If so, I would suggest that the Media Bureau would be directed to summarily dismiss the Informal Objection on that basis and resume processing applications.” There will be other letters and similar filings - stay tuned.
Who’s the next owner of “The only stations that cover the entire Florida Keys?”
They’re tagged for sale in a liquidation-of-assets situation, less than two years after Choice Radio Keys Corp. bought the quartet from Joe Nascone’s Great Marathon Radio Company. The price then was $850,000, with $825,000 of that in a 60-month seller note (March 31, 2016 NOW Newsletter). There’s pending litigation between the parties in state court, and a “Chapter 727” proceeding under Florida law. Phil von Kahle is “the assignee for the benefit of creditors,” and he explains to the FCC that Florida’s Chapter 727 is “akin to a Chapter 7 proceeding under federal bankruptcy laws.” The purpose of both is “the orderly liquidation of the assignor’s assets.” (Remember, Cumulus and iHeart are in Chapter 11 – reorganization, not liquidation.) Here’s the station list - The geographically-distributed (but not simulcast) classic hits trio of “Mix 96.9” WKEZ-FM Tavernier, a C3. “Mix 94.3” WGMX Marathon, a C2. And in the “Lower Keys,” Mix 93.7 WKEY-FM Key West, a C2. The fourth signal is now-silent “Keys Talk 1300” WFFG Marathon (with 2,500 watts full-time). Last week it filed for Special Temporary Authority to remain dark due to “a dispute between licensee and landlord.” Nascone had owned the Marathon stations since 1990 and added Tavernier and Key West in 2011, from the iHeart-connected Aloha Station Trust. The Chapter 727 filing lists a “disputed claim” to Nascone’s Great Marathon Radio Company of $672,908.
The unconsummated year-old Sinclair-Tribune merger is back on the FCC’s front burner.
We’ve had the current (very flexible) “shot clock” paused a couple of times, and now the FCC establishes a “consolidated pleading cycle” – meaning it’s again seeking fresh comments. Sinclair has re-worked the deal multiple times, hoping to please the Commission, proposing ever-greater numbers of TV station spins. (But keeping Tribune’s Chicago talk radio station, WGN/720.) Unfortunately, Sinclair’s open admissions that the spin-off buyers have very close ties to the Smith family-controlled Sinclair haven’t helped its cause. Frankly, the PR has been terrible. And the longer the FCC and the Department of Justice consider the case, the more opposition has arisen – now from some influential voices in conservative media. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox is concerned about Sinclair launching a rival to Fox News Channel, for instance. But as John Eggerton says in Broadcasting & Cable, “The Commission will be restarting the informal 180-day shot clock, after it reviews the latest information from the most recent [Sinclair] filing.” Sinclair announced its intentions toward Tribune last Summer and filed the first set of documents on June 26.
Syndication pro Dennis Green, who concludes a varied 22-year career at Westwood One as Senior VP of Affiliate Sales and Broadcast Operations, opens a new chapter at Florida-based Sun & Fun Media. He’ll be the first-ever Chief Revenue Officer for co-founder/CEO Rob Koblasz. Rob says “Dennis is one of the most respected, experienced and trusted affiliate sales executives in the radio industry, and we are thrilled that he is joining Sun & Fun Media” in the newly-created position of CRO (Chief Revenue Officer). Before Cumulus and Westwood, Dennis was Head of Multimedia Syndication at Bloomberg, and director of affiliate sales and operations for the Illinois and Wisconsin Radio Networks. He has a B.A. in Telecommunications/Political Science from Indiana University, and earned a master’s in sports administration from the University of Illinois-Chicago. Sun & Fun Media’s barter-available product range includes “vacations, gift cards, vehicle wraps, branded station merchandise for NTR events,” plus “research, consultants, equipment, software and more.” Dennis Green will lead a group of six affiliate sales pros, and he’ll continue to be based (as he was for Westwood/Cumulus) in New York City.
JVC Media President/CEO John Caracciolo delivered the commencement speech for Five Towns College, a unique institution in his own backyard of Long Island. JVC owns stations there, as well as the “LI Events” promotion business in Ronkonkoma. John took the “hard work” tack in writing his speech, and says “We kept it short and sweet. But when Danny Seraphine of the rock group Chicago did ‘Saturday in the Park’ with some of the students, you were hoping it would go longer.” John also received a Doctor of Humane Letters from Five Towns College, which focuses on the disciplines of music and music education, film-making/video, audio recording, theater arts and business management.
Max Media decides it needs ratings in Norfolk, after all – and several years after dropping Nielsen under its previous market manager, it signs a “multi-year agreement” with Eastlan Ratings. Market manager Keith Barton says “We needed a ratings system to again measure growth within our building.” Tidewater’s a market where another big station owner, Sinclair Telecable, is a longtime non-subscriber to Nielsen (and before that, Arbitron). Eastlan’s Mike Gould also announces a “long-term renewal” with a client in another Virginia market, south-of-D.C. Fredericksburg. That’s with Allen Shaw’s Centennial Broadcasting, at the cluster led by Mark Bass.
Skyview Networks opens for business in Chicago and Atlanta, with new offices in those cities and new ad sales managers. Jenna Herhold “will be responsible for cultivating agency relationships in Chicago and leading the newly-opened office there.” She spent a decade with Radiate Media and then the company now called USTN, and was an AE for Bonneville in Chicago. New hire Mark Frank “is responsible for managing accounts throughout the midwestern and southern regions, while heading Skyview Networks’ new Atlanta sales office.” Mark has been a senior AE for Cumulus in Atlanta, and VP/National Sales for Wilks Broadcasting. He earned a law degree from the University of Maryland and says he’s a “lifelong musician and songwriter,” as well as the creator of “Positive Kids Music.”
An 80s-based format moves off a Low Power FM in Gainesville, Florida to JVC Media’s WYGC High Springs/104.9. As Radio Insight says, we’d been expecting that to occur in mid-March, but yesterday at noon, WYGC “took the format and staff that had been heard on Radio Gainesville’s 103.3 WGRV-LP.” The entrepreneurial Chris Lash is involved. And now the LPFM, led by engineer Barry Magrill, has become “Oldies 103.3.”
The new-car/truck business picked up in last week’s roster of national advertisers from Media Monitors – there’s an actual Tier 1 advertiser that isn’t a brand of Fiat Chrysler. Nissan North America bought 10,943 spots detected by the service. That ranks Nissan at #33 on the top 100 list, and complements the 7,411 spots purchased by the Tier 2 Nissan Dealer Association. Radio’s no doubt happy that Fiat Chrysler stays on the board, with Ram 1500 (#60), Chrysler Pacifica (#83) and Dodge (#93). Other carmaker-advertisers include the Honda Dealer Association (#39), Toyota Dealer Association (#53) and Ford Dealer Association (#89). The drugstore chains were active, with Walgreens (from #19 to #7) and CVS (#9 to #11). And while Verizon continues to be a no-show, T-Mobile (#15), AT&T (#16), Sprint (#20), Straight Talk (#32) and Simple Mobile from TracFone (#35) show up. #1 again - with an unusually large buy – is Home Depot (89,894 spots, up from about 61,000).
Sub-caps, marketing, and the “many small stations that are doing quite well.”
Texas-based dealmaker Dave Garland needs to get a few things off his chest – “I received an email promoting the idea that we in the broadcast industry should rally around the idea of further deregulation. The idea is for the FCC to increase the ‘sub-caps’ and/or maximum number of stations an owner may have in one market. Excuse me - This is what has brought us here now. The big groups cannot run the groups they have successfully, as it is. The reason promulgated by the supporters of the further deregulation is that the industry is losing market share to newfangled advertising media that did not exist 20-plus years ago, when the last rules were approved by the FCC. So therefore the industry needs to go further into the abyss that brought it to where it is.
“I believe we as broadcasters have as an industry lost the ability to sell our own product,” continues Dave Garland. “The larger the groups have become, the farther they have separated themselves from their clients, the folks that buy the advertising. We have lost the salesmanship that built the industry in the beginning. The early broadcast industry was built by the engineers that designed the hardware to do the broadcasting. It was soon taken over by people that knew how to sell. Many times these were people that had built empires in the newspaper business. But what built the newspaper business was the ability to sell papers and the advertising on their pages. There is that word again, ‘selling.’
“All is not lost. There are many small stations and groups of like stations that are doing quite well, thank you very much. [Again, this is Dave Garland on the Soap Box.] If they have owners that know how to sell and relate to their clients, they can bring in the dollars and keep the stations populated with creative advertising. The one complaint they have is finding talented sales people. I also have a suggestion there as well. I believe that every state broadcasting association should see that their state university has a series of broadcast sales/management classes. Have the classes taught by people who know how to do it, even if they do not have a college degree. There is a critical mass of radios in this country. Every one of them can pick up our product just by turning it on. They will listen if they have a product worth listening to. But that is a topic for another rant.”
No doubt there are differences of opinion about the “sub-cap” and “ownership limit” question. You could be next up on the NOW Newsletter Soap Box – email “Soap Box,” Tom@RTK-Media.com.
$2.4 million is the price for the “Lake City Media” cluster in Warsaw, Indiana. Filling in the blanks from the May 16 NOW story, the FCC filing has the price and terms between longtime business associates Tony Richards (of buyer Kensington Digital) and the Dille family’s Talking Stick Communications (seller). Tony Richards (Anthony Didier) and Jack Didier are acquiring news/talk/sports WRSW/1480, its translator at 99.7 (W259BJ), classic hits WRSW-FM/107.3 and Syracuse, Indiana-licensed country “Willie 103.5” WAWC. They’ll pay $1.9 million in cash, with $1,775,000 of that from bank financing. Then sign promissory notes for $375,000 and $125,000, to reach the $2.4 million total. In other words – the Didiers are doing the deal with $125,000 of their own cash up-front, and the rest in various loans. Until 2012, Tony Richards was COO of the Dille family’s Federated Media.
In Memphis, classic hits “Guess FM” WUMY/830, an about-to-upgrade AM, and one of its three translators sell for $706,823. This is the latest from the engineering shop at Dallas-based Ron Unkefer’s Memphis First Ventures. (Unkefer has eight translators left, including at least one used by WUMY, plus two full-power stations.) WUMY is currently a 3,000-watt daytimer, and holds the two-year-old construction permit to jump day power to 8,000 watts, plus a two-watt stub of a night signal. The translator is W288BJ, a 250-watter at 105.5. Buyer is western Tennessee-based Global Ministries Foundation/GMF-Christian Media I LLC. The AM and the translator will be the ministry’s only broadcast stations. The price breaks down to $649,000 for the station assets, $27,823 “for a tower reimbursement credit” and $30,000 for “an advance payment under the January tower lease.”
For its Detroit-market gospel “Praise 102.7” WPZR, Urban One got slightly more than $12.2 million (plus three translators) from EMF. Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins told his most recent quarterly call that what looks like a $12.7 million price for the Class B licensed to Mount Clemens actually breaks down into two parts. First, Urban One will preserve the gospel format using three translators that EMF is swapping to Urban One, adding them to a translator it already owns to form the “Detroit Praise Network.” We now learn from the sale agreement about the three translators, and two of them are at 93.5. There’s W228CJ Detroit and (licensed to southwest-of-Detroit Riverview), W228CU. Then even more to the Southwest, despite its city of license of Detroit, there’s W252BX at 98.3. Then there’s cash, $12,229,000 of it. Liggins told his call that Praise “contributes about $1 million in cash flow” – and he believes the translators can generate about half that much. He values the translator trio at $500,000. We also learn the broker credit – Spectrum Media, for the Urban One camp.
Alan Kirshbom repatriates to radio, where’d he’d managed for Cumulus in Memphis, and for Entercom in Austin and Milwaukee. Since 2016, he’s served as a senior account manager at Austin’s Lee Tilford Agency. Now Alan takes a load off of iHeart’s Virginia/Carolina Region president Dave Carwile, as the new market president for Raleigh. Since early 2016, Carwile’s been directly handling Raleigh plus Charlotte and other regional spots. Kirshbom worked for Clear Channel from 1988 to 2000, and Carwile says he “combines a proven track record for success of sales leadership, creating culture and driving revenue growth.” iHeart’s Raleigh-Durham assets include CHR “G105” WDCG and talk WTKK/106.1.
Melissa Forman begins a third enlistment at iHeart’s Chicago’s AC “93.9 Lite FM” WLIT, says Robert Feder - who charts her previous work there (2001 to 2006 and 2007 to 2009). She was at liberty after eight years co-hosting “You & Me” for Weigel’s WCIU-TV/Channel 26, until the show ended in March. Melissa succeeds the departing Kristina Kage, who leaves the morning ratings (says Feder) tied for eleventh place with women 25-54 – its target demo.
It was your first job in radio and…You realized that some DJs had other, “real” names. Also - No one in management came out and said it, but you realized you weren’t supposed to put down all the hours you worked on your timecard. If you were in sales, not all your fellow sellers were watching your back (until you earned their trust). There were practical jokers in the building. Some more - It was “hands off” the daughter of the owner/GM. You discovered it was risky to eat food brought in by grateful listeners. And you learned never to park in the space of the market manager, or show up late for a meeting with him or her. So a new topic here in “You Can’t Make This Up” – What did you learn, at your first job in radio? They could be professional lessons, or life lessons. Email as many as you want to “You Can’t Make This Up” – Tom@RTK-Media.com.
Our Kristy Scott is the person to talk to about reaching NOW Readers with your company’s marketing message. She’s also the person to talk to about placing a Classified Ad in the NOW Newsletter. She’s at Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. See you back first thing tomorrow morning - Tom