|Sirius Money Mystery
Why does SiriusXM need the extra $500 million in borrowing capacity?
It could be for an acquisition, or to leverage up the company. They mention the option of repurchasing stock - though with the stock price at $3.76, not far from its one-year high of $4.04, that’s unlikely. It could be for paying a dividend, though SiriusXM hasn’t done that since a special year-end dividend in 2012. But that acquisition thing...that could get interesting. The satcaster just went to the trouble of amending its existing “revolver” – revolving credit facility – from $1.25 billion up to $1.75 billion. It didn’t immediately draw on the new capacity, but offers the usual boilerplate stuff. Like, “the company will use borrowings under its facility for working capital and other general corporate purposes.” Remember that John Malone’s Liberty Media is the controlling shareholder of Sirius XM. And Malone’s deeply involved in Charter cable, which has a pending deal to buy Time Warner Cable. SiriusXM CFO David Frear says the amended revolver carries better terms and a longer maturity, out to 2020. Maybe they’re just taking advantage of low interest rates and adding some cushion - but what if there’s a deal or two ahead?
KLOS-KABC Los Angeles GM Marko Radlovic is out.
Is that news going to raise blood pressures of some other Cumulus GMs? Probably. Marko started at classic rock KLOS/95.5 and talk KABC/790 in October 2011, as Cumulus gobbled up Citadel. He’d managed for Spanish Broadcasting System in L.A. and been that group’s Chief Revenue Officer, among other posts. He’d also managed for Cumulus up in Oxnard-Ventura and managed for Clear Channel predecessor AMFM Inc. in Los Angeles. Within a year of Marko taking over KLOS, he had to manage the retirement of Mark & Brian from the morning show after 26 years. Eventually, Mark Thompson un-retired and joined rival “100.3 the Sound” KSWD – and the recent ratings haven’t been kind to KLOS. The Sound rose to a PPM-best #6 position with age 6+ AQH in the latest Nielsen monthlies, while KLOS (featuring Heidi & Frank in mornings) ranked #17 for the total broadcast week. Meanwhile talk KABC tied for 38th place. Cumulus is about to come into a major windfall with the L.A. cluster, but it has nothing to do with the ratings or revenue at KLOS/KABC – it’s selling the real estate they’re sitting on for about $125 million. That means relocating the studios and the KABC tower. But it will be some other GM, not Marko Radlovic, who’ll oversee that move.
This won’t help the mood at KLOS – rival “Mark in the Morning” pledges a charity donation for each spot on KLOS.
Mark Thompson (says Don Barrett’s LARadio.com) is “stirring it up again, picking on KLOS and its commercial load.” The morning show talent at Bonneville’s classic rock “100.3 the Sound” KSWD will donate $1 for each spot KLOS plays this week, with the money going to the “spcaLA” animal welfare organization. Barrett says Mark, who worked at KLOS from 1987 until 2013, “insists that the money only go to rescuing dogs, not other pets.” Sounds like he knows that the Sound is in (pun alert) a dogfight.
New York DJ “El Pacha” is sued by musical artist Anthony Santos.
Mr. Santos says in his suit filed in New York County Supreme Court that Luis Federico Crespo Martinez (“El Pacha”) defamed him after El Pacha announced that Santos would appear at a concert he was promoting. Santos didn’t do the show. The suit says the jock at SBS-owned Spanish tropical “Mega 97.9” WSKQ also claimed that Bachata musician Santos threatened him after the incident. Courthouse News Service reports the $5 million suit, quoting from its allegation that “El Pacha’s false statements have been disseminated to promoters, producers and managers that would seek to hire” Santos. And that he’s suffered “financial loss...an invasion of privacy” and humiliation, among other things. Note that the suit’s filed against El Pacha, not WSKQ.
New Strata survey says agencies have a growing interest in streaming radio.
Let’s note, as NOW did back in its February 12 story about an earlier Strata study, that software provider Strata has worked in the past with Pandora. And that last year it was asked by Nielsen to stop listing Nielsen data for terrestrial stations alongside Pandora’s in-house data. Comcast-owned Strata does these quarterly surveys of advertising agencies, and here are the radio-relevant bites from the latest one – “33% of agencies say their interest in spot radio [on terrestrial radio] is less than it was last year.” Also, “46% say they are more interested in streaming/online radio than they were last year, and only 16% say they are less interested in that medium than a year ago.” There’s a strong bent toward programmatic buying – using online exchanges – in these results. Respondents say “the biggest benefit to programmatic…is the improved ability to reach a targeted audience (46% of agencies), followed by improved automation/efficiency (40%).” Overall, the agencies in the study are feeling their inner Red Bull – “45% see their business increasing in the first quarter, compared to the same time last year.” 81% “see their clients’ budgets staying the same or growing.” Read the Strata release here.
At least one station in a cluster is likely to run some local news, says new RTDNA study.
Professor Bob Papper’s annual survey finds that “79.2% of local radio groups report that at least one station in the group runs local news. That’s 4% higher than last year.” Though Papper cautions as he always does that the results are based on “stations that return the survey, and since it’s a news survey, stations that run news could well be more likely to return” the questionnaire. So dealing with the universe of “returners,” Papper says “the overall percentage of radio stations running local news is down about 4% compared to last year, which was down 7.7% from the year before.” Interestingly, he finds that “commercial stations ran local news at a much higher rate than non-commercial ones.” Basically, the Hofstra prof (an Emeritus Distinguished Professor) says “The amount of local news on radio looks strikingly like it did a year ago.” Though the average number of minutes per weekday dipped by 2 minutes. The bulk of the Radio Television Digital News Association’s study centers on TV news, and it finds fewer TV news directors planning to increase the amount of news. More from the RTDNA here.
Columbus indie-rocker uses IndieGoGo for crowd-funding.
In 2010 Roger Vaughan sold then “CD101” WWCD Grove City to Ohio State and kept the feisty format alive by LMAing what was then WCVZ Baltimore, Ohio (102.5). His landlord is the Zanesville-based radio/TV owner Southeastern Ohio Broadcasting System, which changed call letters on 102.5 to WWCD and charged $12,000 a month for the first year. But as of this November, the LMA fee rises to $25,000, and could jump to $30,000 in November 2016. All that leads up to an ambitious scheme, says Columbus Business First - to raise money for a commercial radio station from fans online (via IndieGogo). The paper says current manager Randy Malloy wants the money to “buy the tower that carries its signal across Central Ohio.” But it may be that in technical terms, the station wants help with the rising LMA fees. The online goal is $1 million, with a stretch goal of $5 million to buy the station (or as Business First says, “buy the tower”). CD 102.5 may be one of the few stations to place its LMA agreement online here. And it explains why it’s no longer streaming (“we would have to pay an additional $229,950 annually in royalties” to SoundExchange”). The “what happened to the stream” statement is here.
Nielsen’s quarterly RADAR network results show a 62.4% reach of Americans 12+.
That’s for the 43 sales networks participating in the RADAR process, which include those belonging to AdLarge Media, American Urban Radio Networks, Crystal Media Networks, Premiere, Networks, United Stations and Westwood One. The reach of a network radio spot is higher for the 18-49 adult demo (65.8%) and 25-54 adults (66.6%, or 84.6 million average weekly listeners). It’s lower than the overall average for Hispanics (58.1%), but higher for African-Americans at 70.4%. Note that what Nielsen measures in RADAR is estimated audiences to commercials, not programming. These are sales networks (like “ROI Network” from AdLarge), not programming networks. Note that the most recent reach figure of 62.4% compares to 68.0% a year ago, in RADAR 121. Read what Nielsen says about this new RADAR 125 here.
Voltair – theoretically – may have greater impact on stations in Canada than the U.S.
Why? Several ratings experts tell NOW it’s because of how Canada’s Numeris consortium administers the PPM ratings. In the U.S., you need five minutes in the same quarter hour to get credit for that entire quarter hour of listening. Those minutes needn’t be consecutive, by the way, and what the 25-Seven-produced Voltair aims to do is give stronger support to the Nielsen encoding, so those actual listening minutes may get a better shot at being detected by a meter. But Canada has minute-by-minute ratings, not quarter-hour ones. That would probably be impossible to institute in the U.S., but Canadian radio operators accepted it from the get-go. There no “quarter hours” to get for a Canadian station like AC CHFI Toronto, which suffered its worst PPM ever in the recent March/April/May numbers. As one expert puts it, Nielsen lets you “stitch together exposure” to add up to five minutes in a given quarter hour. It has a complex set of rules about that, as does Numeris in Canada. As you heard in Monday afternoon’s “Just In” email news alert from the NOW Newsletter, Numeris has told all Canadian stations in PPM markets to pull Voltair units out of the audio chain, pending the outcome of a 60-day study. In the U.S., Nielsen continues its “radio silence” about the issue. We know it’s working with the Media Rating Council, but nothing’s being said in public.
A “David-and-Goliath” situation in Austin, where Bob Cole’s Austin Radio Network scores a seven-year contract to carry University of Texas sports. The “Goliath” he faced was iHeart. The Austin Statesman says that 20 years ago, it was Clear Channel’s KVET-AM that peeled the rights away from KLBJ. Cole was there for that, and says “No one believed back then that you could separate politically the LBJ family and the university.” Now Cole’s an entrepreneur leading Austin Radio Network, and he’s done the unthinkable deal with new rightsholder IMG College. Cole is “confident that we break even the first year, and maybe down the road it’ll turn.” ARN’s lead station is all-sports “104.9 The Horn.” UT athletic director Steve Patterson is attracted by “the opportunity to create and more interactive programming across all of our sports, which helps drive recruiting interest and the ability of fans to keep up with what’s going on with their kids.”
Rdio CEO Anthony Bay deplores ad-supported freemium music availability as “bad for the industry.” Cumulus-backed Rdio’s finally about to launch in Europe with its “Select” service, and Bay tells Billboard it’s been delayed by negotiations with music rightsholders there. But they’ll soon offer the kind of package they do in the U.S., where $3.99 a month gets you advertising-free radio plus 25 music downloads. To Bay, that’s superior to Spotify’s freemium business model – because that one’s “bad for the industry – if you give someone something too good to be true, they have no reason to pay.”
“We’re bigger than Facebook” – though the tongue-in-cheek comment about programmatic buying from the Jelli platform has a kernel of truth in a new statistic. Jelli says “as of today, an audio ad run on the Jelli platform can reach over 212 million people – more than Facebook’s reach in the United States.” That’s sourced to comScore’s April 2015 rankings, and Jelli claims its audience reach is “currently over two-times larger than Twitter or Pandora.” More on Jelli’s blog here.
One more item about programmatic buying, from Pandora, and it’s about mobile. It says its existing programmatic buying solution for desktop has been supplemented by the ability to automatically match consumers and advertisers on smartphones and other mobile devices. Pandora figures that 80% of its nearly 80 million active users are “tuning in via mobile.” Among other products, it’s using Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange, known as AdX.
Emmis aligns with Triton Digital for streaming, bringing one of radio’s true online pioneers – they’ve been streaming for about 20 years – into the Triton camp. Emmis will use the streaming technology, the Triton Advertising Platform (TAP) for ad-insertion and Webcast Metrics - as well as the online programmatic buying exchange named “a2x.”
Benztown acquires half of “Alien Imaging” from San Francisco-based owner Jeff Schmidt. Jeff started Alien Imaging in 2002 after 18 years as a radio imaging/creative director and videogame sound designer. There have been 12 Alien Imaging libraries for stations worldwide, and now L.A.-based Benztown says it’s taking a 50% stake in the company, coinciding with the release of the new “AI FX” audio production package. It’s available via cash or barter.
Should Low Power FMs be permitted to run 250 watts instead of 100? That’s the proposal at the Commission from community radio advocate REC Networks, and you won’t be surprised by the National Association of Broadcasters’ take on it. Such a large increase would be “premature…[since] the overwhelming majority of the approximately 2,000 LPFM stations to be licensed from the 2013 filing window have not even been constructed yet.” So there’s little experience with them at 100 watts, much less 250 watts. And, NAB says “many will be allowed for the first time to operate in urban markets and/or second-adjacent channels to full-power FM stations.” It contends that it’s “far too early to tell how this new wave will perform at 100 watts.” Read the NAB’s filed comments here.
“Nearly 600 LPFM stations have turned in their licenses to the FCC over the past 15 years,” and the LPFM Advocacy Group is alarmed. It and “over six dozen licensed Low Power FM stations are petitioning the FCC to change its rule to fix this problem and save the service.” They’re looking at a range of issues like power levels, primary status, station transfers “and even call letters.” More on the group led by Executive Director Dave Solomon on a Facebook post here.
Denver’s “Mile High Sports” teases a return to the airways on June 29, and it appears to be on a just-sold AM station (and probably a translator). The June 1 NOW had the story about Vic Michael acquiring KVOQ Denver (1340) as part of a swap. Now Eric Goodman of Mile High Sports Radio tweets that “we will be re-launching on Monday, June 29 on AM 1340 with our FM soon to follow.” Radio Insight explains that Mile High Sports lost an earlier ride with the sale of KDCO Golden, Colorado (1550) and an out-performing translator at 94.1.
Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup and even though Emmis-run alt-rocker WKQX/101.1 didn’t carry the games, they’re happy to share in the euphoria. They’ve temporarily “re-imaged the entire radio station as 101WCoachQX.” The new logo “prominently features Coach Q’s iconic mustache,” a nod to Canadian-born coach Joel Quenneville. WKQX also promises that “listeners will be hearing from the Stanley Cup throughout the week, on-air and online.” PD P.J. says the music will not be alternative rock, but “HAWKternative.”
Is Burlington, Vermont primed for classic hip-hop? “Kiss 104.3” is the newcomer to the Burlington-Plattsburgh market, completing Great Eastern Radio’s move-in of the former WECM from Hartford, Vermont to Keeseville, New York (November 26 NOW). It’s still a Class C3 but now positioned over the Burlington market, Nielsen-ranked #145. Jeff Shapiro at Great Eastern has new call letters befitting “Kiss,” which are the former South Jersey/Wilmington-market WJKS. Radio Insight says Kiss is relying on Westwood One’s Classic Hip-Hop service, and that’s modeled on its Indy-market “93.9 the Beat” WRWM.
A new “Jack FM” is born, at a former contemporary Christian station along the Kentucky-West Virginia border. It’s WZAQ at 92.3, licensed to Louisa, Kentucky, and the format’s a conversion from CCM to variety hits. WZAQ had been using owner Expression Production Group’s “Ignite” branding before the flip to a secular music format, from syndicator Westwood One and SparkNet. WZAQ’s sister WOKD Garrison, Kentucky (98.3) is still doing CCM, and its AM sister WONS Cannonsburg (1080) features gospel music. Louisa, Kentucky itself is a town of about 2,500.
The Dille family’s Talking Stick Communications pays $60,000 for an FM translator companion for its news/talk WRSW/1480 in Warsaw, Indiana. Seller is Christian broadcaster Progressive Broadcasting System. Its flagship for the regional “Your Friend of the Family” network of full-power and translator signals is WFRN Elkhart (104.7). The translator it’s selling is W2589BJ Warsaw, with 170 watts at 99.7. That helps out Talking Stick’s WRSW, which runs 1,000 watts daytime/500 watts at night. Talking Stick bought WRSW and classic hits WRSW-FM (107.3) in 2003 for $1.3 million, adding to their interests in the Hoosier State.
James Powell joins Nielsen as its new Chief Technology Officer, starting after the July 4 holiday. Powell’s been the CTO at Thomson Reuters, and Nielsen offers him quite a broad swath of responsibilities – “directing the technology, engineering and data science teams as the company drives toward a more accessible, interoperable and nimble future.” Powell reports directly to Nielsen COO Brian West, who says “James’ expertise will be a significant boost to our overall technology strategy.” And knows what he might invent for Nielsen? He’s got a Master of Science degree from Imperial College in London in the field of Industrial Robotics.
Jim Krenn gained fame in Pittsburgh radio in his 24 years in mornings at rocker WDVE/102.5, but that nearly-quarter-century skein ended in 2010. He’s also a comedian and he started up a comedy podcast titled “No Restrictions,” and began appearing on CBS Radio’s news/talk KDKA/1020. Now the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says Krenn is “headed back to morning drive,” on Steel City Radio’s hot AC “Q92.9” WLTJ, as of July 6. He’ll do 6-9am with a best-of hour from 9-10am. The Post-Gazette’s Adrian McCoy says “the new morning team includes Terry Jones, Mike Wysocki and Mike Sasson, all of whom are regulars on ‘No Restrictions.’”
Ben Ferguson exits Cumulus-owned Dallas talker WBAP (820), three years after he replaced stalwart Mark Davis in the late morning shift. Now Robert Philpot at DFW.com says “The Ben Ferguson Show has left the building, apparently by choice – well, not entirely left.” Ben’s syndicated Sunday show will still air on ’BAP. Ben posts on Facebook that he’s “taking on more TV responsibilities. I will be able to make the announcement later this week.” He’s appeared on local Dallas TV, and nationally on Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC. New 9-11am host on WBAP is Chris Salcedo, former TV anchor, and also a fill-in for Glenn Beck and contributor to Beck’s TheBlaze. He’s the executive director of the Conservative Hispanic Society.
Alan Almond fashioned “Pillow Talk” into a late-evening sensation on Detroit radio starting in the 1970s, creating that one-on-one bond with solitary (maybe lonely) listeners that can make radio special. He’s just died of a heart attack at 68, says the Detroit Free Press. It says “Almond was known for his smooth voice, along with his passion for love songs and candlelight. Adding to the mystique is the fact that he was rarely, if ever, photographed.” In February, Jacobs Media acknowledged Alan’s work on AC WNIC with one of its “Most Innovative” accolades, and you can read the comments of then-GM Ed Christian, then-PD Jim Harper and others here. (You'll learn how the “no-photograph” bit was born and how WNIC milked it in TV ads.)
The good-old-days weren't always so good - A NOW reader has a flashback from last week's story about the on-air death of an overnight DJ, and says “In the '70s, a friend was doing all-nights in a big Southern market. Unfortunately, the black janitor at the station died on the job, right there in the studio. While continuing to do his live airshift, my friend had to do quite a bit of calling around, because in those days, the 'white' funeral homes wouldn't handle African-Americans. You had to call a 'black' funeral parlor. My friend eventually found a funeral home that was willing to come out and retrieve the body, and in the meantime, the poor fellow just laid there in the studio. I’m glad some things have changed since the ‘good-ole days.’ My friend is still on the air somewhere, though no longer doing all-nights.” Remind you of your own favorite radio story? Share it with the industry. Email “You Can’t Make This Up” – Tom@RTK-Media.com.
Who knows where the Voltair story will go in the U.S. and Canada? Count on the NOW Newsletter to follow it, as we’ve been doing since December 17 when we first ran the story about the mysterious black box, well before it was announced. Want to put your marketing message in front of this highly-engaged readership? Contact Kristy Scott - Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. See you back first thing tomorrow - Tom