NOW’s Last Issue
“Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.”
You can’t improve on the title of the final episode of TV’s “M*A*S*H,” so I’m borrowing it for this last issue of the daily Tom Taylor NOW Newsletter. As I said last week, this has been a privilege – and a Continuing Education course for which the tuition was a lot of caffeine and late nights at a computer. But also wonderful connections with people in the business like you, and it was certainly worth it. I’m still working on replying to the subscribers who sent their good wishes via email, and please know that I’ll miss this daily conversation. (How could I not, after 31 years of covering the radio business?) That “Amen” in the headline is for those who believe in the radio business, and its future. That future won’t look the same as when we started. But radio remains a powerful reach platform from which to try doing so many other things. We should be attempting more things, and be open to the digital future that’s in front of all of us. But face-to-face contact with listeners at live events is still a key – and some of those live events could be produced/promoted by stations, as operators like Galaxy and Townsquare demonstrate. What could radio use more of? Sure, important things like more capital. But also more imagination.
RTK Media – Robert Unmacht, Tom Taylor, Kristy Scott – thanks you.
We’ve genuinely enjoyed our six years as the publisher of the daily NOW Newsletter and the monthly Same-Day Ratings Emails. (Watch for the December-book Nielsen PPMs next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, again sponsored by Futuri Media.) Readers like you have supported us, and so have our many advertisers. (That was Kristy Scott’s part of the business, which she so capably handled.) Robert Unmacht may have more knowledge about radio, and what works and doesn’t, than anybody in the land. He’s a walking encyclopedia not just about radio, but other media, and business in general. (He’s handled the day-to-day operation of RTK Media, which was the sixth business he’s started.) We’d also like to acknowledge the invaluable contribution of Chicago-based graphics whiz and all-around problem solver Alex Peters – she’s been a rock, every single night. Susan Shankin has ably assisted with advertising graphics, and been a backstop for us. And thanks to Chris Huff, whom we’ve variously called “ratings maven, ratings-tracker, ratings chronicler” – he’s all those things, contributing timely insights to the monthly PPM commentary. (And even eyeing the ratings trends outside the U.S.)
Christmas wishes and year-end trends -
The Dave Ramsey Show Celebrates 2018
Radio, thanks for another amazing year. Your airwaves allow us to offer real hope to our listeners across the country, and we’re honored that you turn to us for trusted content. In 2018, we welcomed many new partners like KSFO-AM in San Francisco, WPTI-FM in Greensboro/Winston-Salem, WGOW-FM in Chattanooga, and KUFO-AM in Portland, Oregon. These new partnerships solidified The Dave Ramsey Show as the 3rd largest nationally syndicated program. So, thanks again for the partnership as we look forward to an exciting 2019. Visit ramseymedia.com to learn more.
• For 2019, story #1 is how the industry copes with the trends in local advertising revenue, as clients are enticed by cheaper and more trackable digital media. (Can radio continue to develop its own data analytics capabilities, and prove its still-formidable ROI, return on investment?) Speaking of “formidable” –
• Story #2 is a reinvigorated iHeart, which is bound to become a more formidable competitor, for everybody. One observer says “If iHeart was annoying you before they went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, they are going to be driving you crazy when they’re $10 billion lighter in debt.”
• Story #3 is Entercom, whose CEO David Field has some important quarterly calls coming up, to report on the integration of the CBS Radio stations. Can he pump new life into the Radio.com platform, for one thing?
• Story #4 is Cumulus, which (like Entercom) needs a lot of things to go well in the coming year. They both need to pay down debt, and they’re both being closely watched on Wall Street. Investors are not being kind to radio stocks right now, including Entercom and Beasley.
• Story #5 could be Alpha Media (also hungry to pay down debt). Also other private groups such as Mapleton, whose backers may be looking at options. Meanwhile, Ed Christian at Saga, whose debt is negligible, looks back on the 22 years of industry consolidation and spending, and feels he played the long game.
• Story #6 is ownership de-regulation. Radio still isn’t speaking with anything like a united voice, and we don’t know how far FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is prepared to push. Will radio coalesce, finally, around the NAB Board’s recommendations of June? Another important Washington DC fight for 2019 is over music rights. The court-room standoff between Irving Azoff’s aggressive Global Music Rights and the Radio Music License Committee can’t last forever. Also – since Dems now control the House, can radio hold off another Congressional attempt at imposing a performance right? Or is a creative compromise possible? It’s one of the NAB’s many challenges in Washington.
• Story #7 – and it’s a hopeful one – is all of radio’s successful holiday-time charity events. The December marathons, radiothons, coats-for-kids drives and fundraising stunts are part of radio’s heritage, back to when there were such things as “a promotion budget.” Radio’s always urging clients to advertise and market themselves to preserve market share and grow the business – advice the industry could well take, for its own benefit.
Why not an all-“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” channel?
AccuRadio’s Kurt Hanson has been paying attention to the news, rounding up the tracks for “a personalizable radio channel featuring virtually every commercially-released version of the duet – and nothing else.” The AccuRadio streaming service offers other “One Song Radio” channels, including ones for “Santa Baby,” “White Christmas” and “Blue Christmas.” Hanson says the one for “Cold Outside” even has “gender-reversed and single-gender versions.” As we’ve said here, Christmas 2018 on the radio will be best-remembered for a song that’s not even about Christmas. It generated enormous attention for local broadcast stations in San Francisco, Denver, Louisville and elsewhere – not a bad thing.
Board moves – Entercom recruits new member Susan Neely.
That expands the post-CBS Radio merger board to nine, and adds a real Washington insider – and a well-qualified woman – to the board. Susan K. Neely’s many credits including working in the Bush 43 White House as Special Assistant, helping to create the Department of Home Security, and functioning as DHS’s first Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. In the private sector, she led the American Beverage Association for 13 years before taking leadership of the American Council of Life Insurers a few months ago. Washingtonian Magazine placed her on a list of the “100 Most Powerful Women in Washington.” She was the first female president of the Washington Rotary Club and the University Club of Washington. Her schooling was at the University of Iowa (degrees in journalism and French Civilization) and Drake University (a masters degree in public administration). No doubt Entercom is grateful that a certain former Chairman/CEO of CBS Corp. dropped off the board, as planned, six months after the merger with CBS Radio. That was Les Moonves. (Dodged a bullet on that one.)
Board moves – Salem is short one independent director, and the SEC takes notice.
Roland Hinz, owner and publisher of sports magazines such as “Dirt Bike,” “Motocross” and “ATV/UTV Action,” is retiring after 21 years’ service on the board of Salem. That means Salem no longer has a majority of independent directors, and Salem must replace Hinz by its next annual shareholder meeting in May. Along the way, Roland also became a station owner. His Hi-Favor Broadcasting owns three stations that use Salem’s Spanish Christian “Radio Nueva Vida” format, including L.A.-market KLTX Long Beach/1390. From 2000 through 2010, he served on the board of the not-for-profit “Truth for Life” ministry, which has done business with Salem’s Christian teaching stations.
Onetime Oregon station owner Greg Walden will be succeeded by Frank Pallone....
as Chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. That’s the body in the House which has oversight of the FCC. The New Jersey Democrat has been on the committee for over a decade. But as Chair, he has real power to command the attention of the Republican-led Commission. The FCC is an independent agency, though Pallone can now communicate his concerns and priorities, and loudly. Broadcasting & Cable reports the House Democratic Caucus handing the Commerce Committee gavel to Pallone – who says “there is no better committee in Congress.”
Chicago Cubs PBP talent Pat Hughes will keep showing up to work at Wrigley Field, beginning a 24th season in the booth next Spring. Entercom and the Cubs announce his contract extension, which keeps him on Entercom-owned sports “670 the Score” WSCR for “multiple years.” His current contract expires December 31. After calling minor-league baseball in San Jose and Columbus, Hughes traveled to Minneapolis for TV work for the Minnesota Twins. Then he worked alongside National Radio Hall of Fame and Baseball Hall of Fame member Bob Uecker in Milwaukee, before coming to the Cubs in 1996. (That’s when the Cubs games were on co-owned talk WGN/720.) Entercom market manager Jimmy deCastro isn’t exaggerating when he calls Pat Hughes “the iconic voice of the Cubs…He’s the eyes and ears for so many Cubs fans in Chicago and worldwide.” A NOW reader adds that Pat’s a fan of sports broadcasting history and did a series of audio documentaries about baseball play-by-play talents, called Baseball Voices. Hughes is 63.
Dean Landsman says “I’ve been recruited to come back” to the consulting game, partnered with Andre Carson and Hozie Mack as “Carson, Mack & Landsman.” Dean describes himself as a Media, Marketing and Digital Strategist. He says “Andre took urban stations to #1 positions, some with me [as consultant], some not, working in Columbia SC, Kansas City and St. Louis.” Andre’s consulted in urban and other radio formats. Hozie Mack programmed in Raleigh at urban AC “Foxy” WFXC/WFXK, then crossed to competitor WQOK – and after iHeart put them under the same ownership roof, he oversaw both formats. Dean Landsman has been blogging since 1999, and on his Twitter page says he’s “Visiting this planet for an undetermined amount of time. Doing work in Digital Strategy & Marketing while here.”
The Dan Vallie-founded “National Radio Talent System” brings two staffers on-board full-time, both with the title of “Institutes Director.” Vallie’s concept, born on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, was to “discover, teach and prepare the next generation of broadcasters who can be hired today, and be leaders in the industry.” Both Taylor Ann Wade and Aimee Abel graduated from North Carolina’s Kellar Radio Talent Institute, so they know what it’s about. Taylor Anne has worked with Don Anthony’s Morning Show Boot Camp and Talk Show Camp, volunteered at CRS in Nashville and was a Student Scholar at a Fall NAB/RAB Radio Show. Aimee Abel, who’s anchored for iHeart’s Total Traffic and Weather Network, had been with Vallie’s organization part-time, and now takes a full-time position. Last year there were state-based Summer-time trainings in Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Missouri and Washington State, as well as NC. The website is here.
Pittsburgh’s news/talk KDKA/1020 adds more hours and minutes of news, weather and sports, extending the afternoon news block to 8pm, and implementing new morning newscasts on Saturday and Sunday. That added news presence demanded a bigger newsroom, and Entercom hires longtime WTAE-TV anchor and reporter Wendy Bell to work with Marty Griffin, in the 2pm-6pm hours. Lynne Hayes-Freeland will handle the four-hour midday slot, 10am-2pm. She’s worked at one-time CBS sister KDKA-TV since 1977 – though she spent at the radio station for a year before that. There are also adjustments to mornings, where Larry Richert and John Shumway will now anchor 6am-10am. Also evenings, where former afternoon drive host Robert Mangino starts later in the day, now working 6pm-10pm on Wednesdays, Thursday and Fridays. He’ll also do Saturday and Sunday work. Rob Pratte will host 8pm-11pm on Monday-Tuesday.
Tom Joyner’s back in New Orleans, this time on Entercom’s recently-moved and upgraded classic R&B “Hot.” That station moved down the dial when translator W279DF at 103.7 became W225CZ at 92.9 (April 12 NOW). Now it’s added Reach Media-syndicated Tom Joyner for 5am-10am. “Hot” is also heard on WWWL/1350 and the HD2 signal of “B97” WEZB.
We have a date for the Pandora shareholder meeting to approve the merger with SiriusXM – January 29. CEO Roger Lynch and the Pandora board just filled in the blanks on the date and date (Tuesday, January 29) from the earlier proxy filing. For each share of Pandora stock, SiriusXM, you’d get 1.44 shares of “SIRI.” Total value of the all-stock deal’s around $3.5 billion. Another thing to watch in the New Year – how much of Pandora is shifted from its founding city of Oakland, CA to Atlanta. The southern metropolis is becoming Pandora’s own “HQ2.”
Voxnest issues its first “State of the Podcast Universe Report,” reminding us of the changes there. Those include “HBO grabbing WNYC’s 2 Dope Queens and Pod Save America, while Amazon Prime Video took on Gimlet’s Homecoming, creating a streaming series with Julia Roberts on board as the star.” Business-wise, 2018 saw “Panoply, the podcast network from Slate, exit the content business to place a bigger focus on the hosting and advertising technology side of their business.” Voxnest identifies three “Breakthroughs” for the year – Growing mainstream attention. The new IAB Podcast Measurement Guidelines. And “Big Tech brings in new investments.” Voxnest says its “mission is to enable anyone to seize the podcasting opportunity,” with tools and advertising solutions. Its first “State of the Universe” report is here.
Post-Christmas, Chicago’s WLIT/93.9 will feature “Relaxing Favorites.” Though probably not with the “Breeze” station name that iHeart recently introduced to the market on the HD2 signal of WKSC/103.5. The betting is that for 93.9, iHeart will stick with the “Lite” handle that it retrieved, not too long ago. Over the years, the station’s been many different flavors of adult contemporary. Now Chicago media maven Robert Feder says “when WLIT wraps up its annual run as ‘Chicago’s Christmas Lite’ next week, look for the station to begin marketing its sound as ‘Relaxing Favorites.’” That’s a pronounced shift away from the recent positioning as “Best variety from the ’80s, ’90s and Now.” Feder says could be to “compete more effectively against Weigel Broadcasting’s Me-TV FM.” That’s the easy oldies format Weigel runs on a leased Channel 6 low power TV station, WRME-LP at 88.7. In the most three most recent Nielsen PPM months. WRME-LP moved 3.8-3.4-3.3, with age 6+ AQH total-week shares. Lite’s been lower – 3.2-3.5-3.2. But of course that’s before its usually sensationally-successful all-Christmas move, which we’ll see in next Wednesday’s PPMs. iHeart’s counting on all that new Christmas cume to sample the “Relaxing Favorites.”
“Your soft AC playlist” is Sean Ross’ consideration not just of easy oldies – but of “the enthusiasm for the music itself, among broadcasters.” He got hundreds of suggested playlist titles from broadcast pros, following a Facebook request. And generally, Sean thinks “The new soft ACs represent an ongoing balancing act between ‘older and softer’ and ‘but not too old and soft.’” Read the Radio Insight-hosted “Ross On Radio” post here.
In free-spirited Asheville NC, progressive talk is chased inside the iHeart cluster for a second time in six months. Back in June, it was air-lifted from WPEK Fairview/880 to a translator, branded as “101.1 The Revolution.” Now it’s off that translator (W266CP Candler), replaced by a new “Alt”-branded station, alternative rock “Alt 101.1.” It’s fed by the HD3 signal of sister country WKSF/99.9. Radio Insight reports the move, and scans the competitive landscape – “Launching with 10,000 songs in a row, the new Alt format positions itself between iHeart’s ‘Rock 105.1’ WQNS and Saga’s adult alternative ‘98.1 the River’” on a translator. iHeart SVP/Programming-Asheville Brian Hall says “There is a huge appetite for alternative music” in his market.
Kalil & Co., Inc.
|2960 N. Swan Rd, Ste 134
Tucson, AZ 85712
East of Salt Lake City – and fortified by no fewer than six on-channel boosters to cover the populace – is regional Mexican “104.7 Mi Preferida” KNIV. When the former Simmons station was sold to Mav Media LLC in 2001, the calls were KZNS and the price was $3 million. The terms included a note for $2,640,000 – and two years ago, Aerostar Communications bought the note. Now to “avoid litigation” over the defaulted note, Aerostar is taking over KNIV and all those boosters. The station is a Class C licensed to another state – Lyman, Wyoming.
South of Salt Lake City, three recently-silent signals sell to Franklyn and Melanie Mueller, as JJIE Corporation. There’s an AM, FM and a translator, and licensee Zeta Holdings has asked the Commission for Special Temporary Authority for each of them. Earlier this year, Zeta said the tower for Provo’s KSRR, a 1,000-watter at 1400, had collapsed, and it needed to resort to using a long-wire antenna to stay on-air. In June, Zeta said former AC “Star 96.7” KQMB, a Class C licensed to Levan, Utah “had been operating at a loss” and was silent. And in August, Zeta took translator K244DH Fort Douglas/96.7 silent for financial reasons. It said it was “in negotiations with a willing buyer” – and that’s JJIE (the Muellers). Price for the three signals is $100,000.
The principals of one Orlando-area Low Power FM exit that ownership group so they can take over another LPFM. Eduardo Colon, Denisse Torres and Eyla Maldonado are transferring their 25% interests in K & A Broadcasting, which holds Spanish “Alpha 95.9” WGRL-LP, Saint Cloud, to other parties. That frees them up to move into the ownership of WBVL-LP, also known as Spanish tropical “Pura Salsa” “Latino 99 FM.” It’s licensed to Kissimmee (“ki-SIM-ee”). Colon, Torres and Maldonado have formed Sucremedia, which is acquiring WBVL-LP from The Broadcasting Group. Hopefully the parties understand the price. The original document said “total consideration shall be the sum of $100,000,” beginning with a $10,000 escrow. But in the filed agreement, “One Hundred Thousand Dollars” is struck through, and further down somebody has hand-written in “$65,000.” There will be an LMA before closing, and those monthly payments will be credited against the price.
Wilmington, NC-market WGHW/88.1 is sold by Church Planters of America to the local Peace Baptist Church of Wilmington. Price is $250,000 for the Class C1 facility that’s licensed to Lockwoods Folly Town, NC. (The name is one of the oldest in the Tar Heel State, dating back to at least a 1673 map.) The seller is accepting $50,000 up-front, then the balance of $200,000 over the next eight years, in annual installments at 5% interest. WGHW currently runs the “Old Paths Radio Network” feed of Church Planters – a combination of Christian teaching and southern gospel. Presumably the Baptists will do something similar.
The latest commercial-FM score for “K-Love” parent EMF is in northwestern Georgia, where classic rock “95.7 the Ridge” WATG is about to change its tune. It’s licensed to Trion, in Chattooga County, and the seller is TTA Broadcasting. Its principal Randall Davis is the owner (through Cripple Creek Broadcasting) of “Talk Radio 1410” WLAQ in Rome, Georgia, which will soon be accompanied by a translator at 96.9, W245DG. In the deal for “Ridge” WATG, Davis is accepting $200,000 cash from Sacramento-based not-for-profit Christian broadcaster Educational Media Foundation, which will convert Class A “The Ridge” to non-commercial status. (And make it the latest link in its nearly-ubiquitous contemporary Christian K-Love network.) Broker – Eddie Esserman of Media Services Group.
Two former Emmis managers (plus partner Dana Withers) close their $925,000 cluster purchase in northern Arizona. The lead in Stone Canyon Media Group is John Beck, who managed the Emmis station group in St. Louis from 1984 until their split-up sales this year to Entercom and Hubbard. He and Cherry Creek Radio founder Joe Schwartz (also a onetime Emmis GM) own 75% of the buyer, through “Stone Canyon Radio & Marketing Group LLC.” The other 25% of the buyer is owner/operator Dana Withers, who learned the business watching her dad Russ Withers. Here’s what Stone Canyon Media Group just bought from Grenax – “Big Talker” KBTK/92.7 Kachina Village. Classic hits “Rewind Radio 92.5 and 104.1” KFLX Chino Valley and its Flagstaff translator. “107.5 Kolt Country” KSED Sedona. And classic rock “96.7 the Wolf” KWMX, Williams, with boosters in Flagstaff and Sedona. Brokers – George Reed and Megan Reed of Media Services Group.
Stoney Richards (middle) had acted before he came to Pittsburgh’s country “Y108” WDSY, and he’d recently left his afternoon/APD/MD gig there to pursue that interest further. He’s back with the station, now owned by Entercom, and he’s part of the newly-assembled “Y’d Awake” – try saying it aloud – morning crew. He co-stars with Kristen Buccigrossi and producer “Cowboy Curt” Hughes. Market manager says Stoney Richards is “beloved by Pittsburgh country fans and the Nashville hitmakers alike.” Stoney’s acting credits include appearances on “St. Elsewhere” and The Bob Newhart Show, and he’s been in movies such as “Three Men and a Little Lady,” “Punchline” (with Tom Hanks) and “Predator 2” (Danny Glover, Bill Paxson). Stoney’s done extensive work in theater, has hosted syndicated radio shows, and was local Pittsburgh Chair of the SAG-AFTRA Broadcast Steering Committee. Recently he’d handled fill-ins on Y108 and sister news/talk KDKA/1020.
“The End of the World As We Know it (And I Feel...)” – Brian Tonneson, a 19-year engineer with CBS Radio and Entercom in San Francisco, recalls his beginnings – “My first station was KIJV/1340 in Huron, SD. I was playing DJ one evening when our CE, Rick Keefer stopped by. He had been out on a motorcycle ride and saw a threatening storm. I stepped out the back door and saw a very black and ominous-looking storm front approaching. Right then the power went off. The emergency generator did start, but it was too small to run the transmitter and the building. We ran around unplugging copy machines, refrigerator, etc. I walked into the dark studio, turned the mic on, and using all five months of on-air experience, let the listeners know we would keep them informed. After this I started up one of the turntables to play something to give me time to call our weather service. The song starts, and the engineer and I look at each other with faces of horror - I was playing ‘Eve of Destruction.’ I segued to something (ANYTHING) on the other turntable, but not before the damage was done. There was a tornado but it missed the city. But for weeks afterwards, I was still getting phone calls and people stopping me to give me similar stories - some variant of whole families huddling in basements and root cellars with their 9-volt transistor radio listening to the only station on the air...playing ‘Eve of Destruction.’” Brian says “It was my most embarrassing radio moment, but I have to smile, every time I recall it.” And that has the ingredients for a classic “You Can’t Make This Up” story. Thanks to the hundreds of NOW Readers who contributed stories to “No Names Please” and “You Can’t Make This Up” – you’ll never know how much you brightened the day for readers. And keep telling great stories to your friends and colleagues, about a business that’s crazy, maddening, frustrating – and lovable.
Remember – Same-Day Ratings Emails next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in your in-box, sponsored by Futuri Media. Still time to sign up for those last three “sends,” at the bottom of today’s issue. (“Email Options/Update Subscription.”)
Finally – thanks. I have a lump in my throat, and it comes from a feeling of gratitude to you. Enjoy the holidays, have a better-than-you-expect 2019, and keep having fun with radio (and life). Tom