A radio goodbye
Final issue of this Tom Taylor NOW Newsletter will be Friday, December 21.
Yes, it’s time for me to retire. In my head, I may still think I’m a kid, but my odometer is about to roll over to a large round number (70). And at this point in my life, my family needs more of me. Between my wife and I, one parent has a grave illness and another parent just passed away. (Also, my wife reminds me that with me working six days a week and taking little time off, we haven’t taken a real vacation since 1995.) I’ll miss this daily conversation with you, and I apologize for breaking the news to you this way. After programming and jocking for 16 years, I began writing about the industry in 1987, and have been writing a daily newsletter since Inside Radio launched a fax (remember those?) in 1991. My colleagues Robert Unmacht and Kristy Scott and I have been publishing this particular NOW Newsletter since November 2012, and it’s been a dream collaboration. (Also, thanks to the many supportive advertisers who enable us to offer this newsletter and the PPM emails at no cost – they’ve been essential to what we do.) In three decades of covering the business, I’ve tried to be fair, to get the story right, and to be at least a bit entertaining. And an important point - Please don’t read my personal decision as a judgement about the future of radio. (As “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry said, “It isn’t over; everything has not been invented; the human adventure is just beginning.”) More to come at a later date. (And we’re working to keep information about the business coming – TBA.) Let me say this for now - Thanks for letting me be part of your life, every day. It’s been a privilege.
TM Studios is turning off the HitDisc and PrimeCuts music services at year-end.
The production house dropped GoldDisc several years ago, and now Dallas-based TM Studios is phasing out deliveries of the “HitDisc” and “PrimeCuts” products on CD. The HitDisc weekly service delivered “new releases most likely to be added by programmers,” and came in three flavors - “A” for hot AC, CHR, “crossover” and urban. “B” for rock, alternative and adult alternative, and “C” for country, urban AC and “NAC/Smooth Jazz.” There was a separate product line for the United Kingdom, “HitDisc UK.” For current chart hits in the U.S., there was “PrimeCuts,” covering AC, hot AC, CHR, urban, rock alternative and country. The HitDisc new-release service began in the late 1980s, long before online music delivery was technologically feasible. TM Studios, part of the Westwood One family, has instructions for subscribers to HitDisc and PrimeCuts here. TM Studios continues offering a raft of other services and products, including music libraries, production libraries, jingles, station imaging, show-prep and comedy services. As Westwood tells this NOW Newsletter, that includes the customizable, interactive jingle service known as EVO. It also says “the company will re-launch TM’s sung commercial jingle business in 2019.” (Thanks to a NOW Reader for the news tip.)
Could Cumulus bid for Tribune’s WGN Chicago/720?
Cumulus CEO Mary Berner “told staffers in Chicago last week that the company definitely was interested in WGN,” says media-watcher Robert Feder. He quotes an insider who says WGN is “on our radar.” That attitude’s a long way from where Cumulus was between late November and June 4, when it was constrained by Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Berner’s remarks suggest that she’s confident she could find the money to acquire WGN, and they also send a signal to staffers beyond Chicago that the company’s interested in growing. Adding WGN would give Cumulus a fourth signal. It inherited the undersized onetime ABC Radio cluster of talk WLS/890 and classic hits WLS-FM/94.7, and recently added alternative WKQX/101.1. (A bankruptcy judge let Cumulus reject the contract to add then-classic rock WLUP/97.9.) Cumulus could potentially economize on back-office costs by integrating WGN with WLS-AM/FM and WKQX. Nexstar just stepped up to succeed Sinclair as the putative buyer of Tribune Media, and Crain’s Chicago Business says Nexstar has told analysts that it’s open to selling “non-core assets.” In its 22-year history, Nexstar’s never shown any interest in radio.
In Philadelphia, Urban One drops the “Praise” gospel format to try R&B oldies.
New branding – “Classix 107.9.” The strategy’s interesting, since contemporary gospel has been a mainstay format for Urban One in numerous markets – though it did recently sell Detroit’s “Praise 102.7” WPZR to EMF, replacing it with a regional collection of four translators to perpetuate the brand. Now in Philly, gospel moves sideways, to the HD2 signal of WPPZ Pennsauken. The main signal’s been gospel since September 2016, but there’s been little to sing about. (In the last six months, WPPZ’s ranged between a 0.9 share to a 1.2 share, with age 6+ AQH total-week share in the Nielsen PPMs. It ranked #25 among subscribing stations in the November PPMs.) Radio Insight reports the switch to “Classix,” plus this adjustment – “Sister urban AC ‘100.3 RNB’ WRNB has dropped much of its older music and has re-positioned from ‘Philly’s R&B and Old School’ to just ‘Philly’s R&B station.’” That moves 100.3 partly out of the way of Classix.
SF’s KOIT/96.5 harvested much publicity out of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” – and it re-adds the song.
PD Brian Figula appeared on CNN, and the station’s listener poll was written about by papers worldwide. You literally can’t buy that kind of publicity (or plan it). The Bonneville-owned AC certainly didn’t plan for the controversy that erupted, after more than a hundred listener complaints about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” compelled Figula to pull the song. But then he put the matter up for a vote (as did Denver sister AC KOSI/101.1). And yesterday’s verdict is that “the vast majority consider the song to be a valuable part of their holiday tradition, and they still want to hear it on the radio.” The “yes” vote was “more than seven out of every ten listeners.” (The Denver poll came in even more strongly for “yes.”) Listen to KOIT’s Nick & Kristen morning team explain it here. NOW Reader Dimitri Vassilaros says “I have a very different take on the song. I use the Dean Martin version as my bump music on my talk show.” Why choose that one? Dimitri, heard in the Wheeling market, says “The song makes a strong statement about an empowered woman, especially when it was written about seven decades ago. [The male character] is persistent, but she is not fighting him. She’s fighting the social norms of the time period.” Dimitri believes “she wants to stay.” Eric Jon Magnuson at the North American Network PR shop reports that despite some group-wide bans on the song in Canada, some Nova Scotia stations such as Arcadia’s “Y95” CJLS Yarmouth and the Bridgewater trio including CKBW/98.1 are sticking with “Cold Outside.”
NY-based Scopia Capital acquires a 4.4% stake in Entercom, per yesterday’s SEC filing here. The total purchase was 6,142,842 shares of “ETM” stock, acquired by the fund led by Matt Sirovich and Jeremy Mindich. As usual in these cases, there’s no indication about motivation, but presumably it’s the usual “for investment only.” Entercom stock closed up a penny yesterday at $6.47 a share. Its 52-week range is $5.82 to $11.70 – and it hasn’t been as high as $10 since a sharp drop in May.
Seattle looks like the fourth market where Hubbard makes year-end cuts, with a morning team and an evening host among the casualties. The first Hubbard market we heard about was Chicago (reported by Robert Feder), then Saint Louis and Cincinnati (reported by John Kiesewetter). Now Radio Insight says the morning show at AC “Warm 106.9” KRWM is in the down elevator. That’s Allan Fee, Ashley Ryan and Kevin Justik, a.k.a. “Woody the Producer.” At the newish country “98.9 the Bull” KNUC, which is up against Entercom’s “98.7 the Wolf” KKWF, evening talent Michael Kraig Mason is MIA. His credits include work in Portland, Oregon (CHR “Z100” KKRZ and alternative KNRK/94.7), Richmond (“XL102” WRXL), and on Seattle-South Sound “Funky Monkey 104.9” KFNK. He’s also worked with Seattle-area-based Delilah, doing video. As for the Warm morning team, Allan Fee and Ashley Ryan had been in place since September 2015. Allan’s programmed in both Cleveland (“Q104” WQAL) and St. Louis, at “105.7 the Point” KPNT. As in the other markets, Hubbard supposedly also laid off some off-air workers such as producers and folks in the promotion department. If there have been layoffs in other Hubbard markets such as DC and Phoenix, those haven’t come to light yet. Got a news tip? Email Tom@RTK-Media.com.
It took 8-1/2 years, but a new AM is finally licensed to the Albuquerque market. Bret Huggins has endured, after he and Cibola Radio Company crossed swords in the FCC’s AM Auction #84. Cibola wanted to relocate its KQNM/1100 from Milan, New Mexico to Rio Rancho, but lost out. Then Cibola claimed that Huggins hadn’t moved forward with his own plan for an 1120 facility, licensed to south-of-Albuquerque Peralta. The two sides battled over Huggins’ extensions to build – and finally Huggins gets his grant. It will be a tricky array, licensed for 50,000 watts daytime (three towers), except for the critical hours after sunrise and before sunset (28,000 watts, three towers). And 250 watts at night, using four towers. No call letters yet for 1120/Peralta.
Chicago-area broadcasters cooperate today for another of their roadblock promotions to boost radio. This time it’s the coordinated play at 4:29pm of a 60-interview with satisfied radio advertiser Brent Stern of Rogers & Hollands Jewelers. Matt Scarano says “Rogers & Hollands Jewelers have been stalwart supporters of the radio industry.” Matt’s the Chair of the Illinois Broadcasters Association’s “Radio Broadcasters of Chicagoland” Committee. The committee’s first roadblock – meaning the same thing is heard everywhere you tune on the dial – was a 30-minute live talk with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Since then they’ve built on the idea of giving a platform to advertisers, as well as a charity effort for the American Red Cross, following Hurricane Harvey. Dennis Lyle is president/CEO of the Illinois Broadcasters Association.
iHeart renews the morning “Bob & Tom Show” in all 13 markets that are using it. That’s including their 36-year flagship, Indy’s classic rock “Q95” WFBQ. The affiliate list includes WKQQ Lexington/100.1 (23 years), Toledo’s WIOT/104.7 (22 years), and four stations at the 21-year mark – “98.5 the Fox” KDFO Bakersfield, WIBA-FM Madison/101.5, “100.7 the Fox” KKRQ Cedar Rapids and “96.9 the Dog” KDAG in the Four Corners market. Host Tom Griswold thanks iHeartMedia National Programming Group GM Brad Hardin and others at iHeart for “keeping our long relationship moving forward.” The Bob & Tom Show is distributed by Westwood One.
Here’s the link to the Nielsen “Tops of 2018” format report, mentioned in yesterday’s NOW Newsletter – right here. That’s the one showing year-to-year gains for AC and classic hits, and a continued #1 perch for news/talk.
National radio advertisers worked up a hearty appetite last week based on one pattern from the weekly ranking by Media Monitors. McDonald’s is now a top-five advertiser, up from #12 two weeks ago to #5 (22,204 spots). Brinker group-owned Chili’s advances from #20 to #6 (21,249 spots). Subway improved from #22 to #8 (21,147 spots). And Wendy’s jumped from #53 to #24 (13,893 spots). Another ongoing trend is holiday gift-giving. Jared The Galleria of Jewelry glitters in the top ten (#27 to #9, 20,941 spots), and Diamonds Direct is #18 (15,432 spots). National radio’s leading paid advertiser is Home Depot (45,720 spots), followed by GEICO (42,323 spots).
In Phoenix, “K-Love” and “Air1” exchange frequencies, now that Educational Media Foundation has upgraded 105.5 from C3 status to C2. The former KLVA Maricopa is now KAIZ, with new city of license Avondale – and that’s where Contemporary Christian Air1 moves to, from 89.9. What’s at 89.9 now? Radio Insight says it’s “currently running a redirect loop, to move the audience to 105.5.” After that, Lance Venta says “89.9 will become the eastern half of a ‘K-Love’ simulcast with 89.1 KLVK Fountain Hills.” And the former KZAI Superior/89.9 takes over the KLVA calls. So Phoenix will have EMF’s bread-and-butter contemporary Christian K-Love format running on KLVA and KLVK.
“Yellow Dog Broadcasting” in Sheboygan, Wisconsin uses a translator sign-on to change formats on its underlying AM. WCLB/950 is no longer doing sports with Fox Sports Radio, but debuts a new identity as hot AC “Z107.3,” says Northpine. These are the only signals in Sheboygan for Randall B. Hopper’s RBH Enterprises, which does business as Yellow Dog Broadcasting.
How does “Jethro” sound, as the handle for a classic country station? In the Grand Rapids market, locally-owned WYGR/1530, licensed to the Michigan town of Wyoming, and its companion translator at 94.9 have adopted the “Jethro” name for the classic country format that replaces urban AC. The slogan is “Country with a twist.” Radio Insight adds that WYGR Inc. “will soon add a second translator at 99.5, W258DF Lowell, to cover the rural areas east of Grand Rapids.” That should leave the urban AC lane open for Townsquare’s “Magic 104.9” – another AM/translator combo. (It’s WNWZ/1410 and translator W285FO.)
Philadelphia’s just-sold 1540 AM is back on-air and doing regional Mexican, after nearly five months of silence (and being sold). But “due to issues with the transmitter,” new owner Aztec Capital Partners says the best the transmitting plant can do in the daytime is 10,000 watts, instead of the licensed 50,000 watts. It’s requesting Special Temporary Authority to stay at that lower power level during the repair period. Aztec Capital Partners paid $375,000 for WNWR, which previously aired programming from China Radio International, on the station owned by Global Radio LLC/New World Radio. Scott Fybush’s NorthEast Radio Watch reports the new regional Mexican lineup on WNWR.
Paul Harris worries about “radio’s next generation,” the one that should be succeeding the folks leaving the business through layoffs or retirement. Harris, a former personality in DC and Saint Louis who’s nine months out from his “final radio show,” has a different view of the business these days. Read his latest post here.
“At NPR, an army of temps faces a workplace of anxiety and insecurity,” according to the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi. He says “resentment among temps about their status has boiled beneath the surface for years, but the tensions have begun to bubble up over the past several months.” Union reps estimate that 1-in-5 jobs are being filled by temporary workers, though NPR management says the percentage isn’t that high. Read the Post’s take on the situation, which some inside the newsroom describe as “exploitative,” here.
Shayna Sharpe checks in, after Regional Reps, where she’d succeeded her father Stuart as CEO, was sold to Gen Media Partners. That sale news was in yesterday’s NOW Newsletter, and here’s her comment, about leaving the Cleveland-based rep firm – “I’ve been fortunate to have had my dream job…My station relationships went far beyond just being clients. So many are dear friends, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to help grow their business and become part of their station families.” She says “You can connect with me on social media” or by email, to Shayna_Sharpe@yahoo.com.
Doug McIntyre describes himself on his website as “radio host, columnist, TV/film writer-producer and event emcee” – but after 22 years around L.A.’s talk KABC/790, he’s leaving the station. His email quoted by Don Barrett’s LARadio.com is that “This is something I have been thinking about for a long time…I’m very excited the day has finally arrived.” That day will be Friday, when he signs off the 5am-10am “McIntyre in the Morning.” He’s hosted mornings on KABC a couple of different times, and also starred on the overnight “Red Eye Radio” from Westwood One. Handing off the five-hour morning show for Cumulus should open up more time for McIntyre’s other activities and interests. See his Wikipedia page, about work on past projects such as “Married...With Children,” “Full House” and the PBS “Liberty’s Kids,” here. He’s also a columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News group of papers owned by Digital First. Back at KABC, co-hosts Leeann Tweeden and Randy Wang apparently stay, to be joined by a successor to McIntyre.
Jeff Styles has a new ride in the Chattanooga market, after a tumultuous time following this Summer’s road-rage incident involving a tomahawk. The November 19 NOW said charges of vandalism and aggravated assault against him had been dropped, in the incident which Styles claimed was a matter of self-defense. He was cut by Cumulus talker WGOW-FM/102.3 just before Labor Day, and WCRB-TV says Styles called that “a cowardly decision.” His new ride with local owner Brewer Broadcasting is for 8am-10am on its talk “NoogaRadio 92.7.” That’s a translator (W224AZ) fed by the HD4 of “Big 95.3” WPLZ. Jeff tells the local TV station “I’m chomping at the bit, excited to stir things up.”
Brush with greatness (Jean Shepherd) – Robert Conrad at Cleveland’s WCLV says “Much of the filming of ‘The Christmas Story’ was done in Cleveland, including the Santa Claus scenes in what was then the Higbee Department Store in the Terminal Tower. At the time, WCLV’s studios were located on the 15th floor of the Tower on the wing above the Higbee department store. We invited Jean Shepherd up for an interview. I pulled his comedy records out to get his autograph on them. When he came up to the studio, I handed the three albums to him. He looked at the first recording he had made and said ‘I don't have this one. Will you give it to me?’ I said, ‘Hell, no! What would I play on the air?’ He was dejected but went on with the interview.” Conrad is the co-founder and president of Cleveland’s classical WCLV, and has hosted the broadcasts of the Cleveland Orchestra from Severance Hall since 1965. He’s also an adjunct professor of broadcasting at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
This is the time to share your very favorite radio story for “You Can’t Make This Up.” The “kicker” feature that was born as “No Names, Please” in the former TRI (Taylor on Radio-Info) newsletter became “You Can’t Make This Up” here, and it’s been a joy to work with, all these years. My thanks to everyone who ever submitted even a single story about the radio business. Special thanks to those who were frequent contributors of stranger-than-fiction true stories (you know who you are). If there’s one dynamite true tale you’ve been holding onto, please consider sharing it now. Email Tom@RTK-Media.com.
If you want to reach NOW readers with a classified ad, there’s time. Contact RTK Media partner Kristy Scott. She’s at Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. See you back first thing tomorrow morning - Tom