|iHeart sued over texts
Texting trouble -
The lawsuit just filed on behalf of Beth Shvarts alleges that iHeart has a “captive audience for its advertising partners.” How’s that? The federal suit filed in New York says iHeart “encourages listeners to send text messages to ‘55100’ to, among other things, make song requests.” But in return, “iHeart captures the incoming cellular telephone number and sends that number an unauthorized advertising text message displaying advertisements from its third-party advertising partners.” Seems trivial, but that’s the question, isn’t it? By texting New York’s Z100/WHTZ, did Beth Shvarts grant iHeart permission to send her a return text with an ad? The suit filed by a bunch of attorneys, who seek immediate class-action status, says “iHeart does not disclose in its invitations to send text messages for song requests, contests or any other reason” that you’ll get a return text with an ad. They can’t find advance notice on station websites, and they say the messages are sent solely “for the purpose of generating profits for iHeartMedia.” They call it a “nuisance” – which is no doubt going to be the reaction at iHeart. Some examples - “Thanks for texting the studio! While you’re at it play us in the brand new version of Words with Friends! Play NOW:’ followed by a link for Words with Friends producer Zynga. The suit also cites examples from KDWB Minneapolis (for Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park) and DC’s “Hot 99.5” WIHT (for Circle K Convenience stores). All that (the suit says) equals a violation of TCPA, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Under the hood at Emmis, where CEO Jeff Smulyan made $1.33 million in salary and bonus last year.
Though the founder’s total comp (including stock and option awards that may not have vested yet) has shrunk lately. That’s partly because he got a $700,000 signing bonus a couple of years ago when he committed to a new employment contract. For Emmis’ fiscal 2013, Jeff’s total compensation was $4,564,146. The next year, he got about $2.4 million. And now for the most recent fiscal year, $1,882,634. To break that down, the base salary was $925,000 and the bonus was $405,000. The board gave him $283,950 in option awards, $231,250 in non-equity incentive plan compensation, and about $37,000 in “all other compensation.” That would include an automobile allowance of $24,000 and $10,000 worth of company-paid insurance premiums. How did other Emmis execs fare? EVP/CFO/COO Pat Walsh got $612,000 in salary and $156,000 in bonus, and his stock awards plus other things added up to total comp of $1,253,200. Radio Programming President Rick Cummings, who’s been with Jeff since the very beginning, totaled $1,061,969. That started with $475,000 in salary and about $44,500 in bonus.
Emmis is still “Jeff’s company.”
His ownership of all the ten-votes-per-share Class B stock guarantee him voting control. Though there’s an interesting footnote in the latest proxy – “Mr. Smulyan has pledged 1,931,621 shares of Class B stock to a financial institution. If any of these shares are transferred to a third party as a result of this pledge, they would automatically convert into an equivalent number of Class A common stock, and thereafter be entitled to only vote per share.” So just over 1.9 million of Smulyan’s total of 4,569,464 Class B shares are pledged, suggesting that if – and it’s just an if – something happened and somebody else got the block of 1.9 million shares, Jeff’s voting control might be in question. He’d be down to about 2.6 million Class B shares. He also has just over a million shares of the Class A “EMMS” stock, or about 2.6% of that class. Those shares together with his Class B stock earn him “total voting power” of 54.5%. An even larger single block of Class A shares, about 5.3% of them, is held by Zazove Associates. They’re part of a dissident group of preferred shareholders. Read the proxy for the coming July 9 annual meeting of Emmis shareholders here.
Telos says “We loaned a Voltair to Nielsen in January, and we’re still waiting.”
Cleveland-based Telos Alliance says “We would welcome the opportunity for our lead scientist to meet with their lead scientist(s).” But so far, nothing. It has a hotter-than-a-firecracker product on its hands, and it just posted a list of FAQs to answer questions about whether (for example) Nielsen could “declare Voltair illegal” in its PPM-measured markets. Telos says, quite philosophically, “Can an audio processor be illegal? Who would police that? And what about stations who only use Voltair as a monitor?” You see, it’s also capable of “processing options” for PPM markets, to “enhance your chances of getting credit for the listening that actually occurs.” Telos says “Last we looked, your on-air chain, methods and programming choices belong to your station.” Call it the “free-market approach.” The company says “Some stations have high-priced morning talent, and some don’t. Some stations have 100,000 watts, and some have only 250 watts.” It also cautions that “If you don’t have listeners, or good programming, or a signal people can receive, Voltair isn’t going to help you.” But there are definitely believers -
“Time Spent Listening and AQH appear to be growing in every PPM market.”
Voltair producer Telos Alliance is taking a wee bit of credit for that, despite the Stealth-fighter Skunkworks level of secrecy around this entire subject. It says “Our clients tell us they see increases in all three measurement metrics since Voltair came on the scene...this is significant: It speaks to a rising tide that lifts the radio broadcast boat.” Its position is that “more accurate measurement is in the industry’s best interest and means more advertising dollars flowing back to radio.” The Telos view is that the PPM was created by Arbitron in the 1990s, “commercialized in the 2000s, and never updated.” But it says “technology is not static, it always evolves.” And in fact the Skunkworks (Defense contractor lingo there) at Telos-associated 25-Seven is at work on “the intersection between Voltair and our Omnia processing line,” in a product to be announced this Summer. (The “no-haggle price” for Voltair is $15,000.) Where’s this all going? Several observers tell this NOW Newsletter the same thing – they expect some kind of resolution between Nielsen, Telos and the Media Rating Council soon. We know there was a Voltair presentation at a recent NAB COLRAM meeting – and the buzz is too loud to keep the lid on.
Some songs and some speaking voices don’t get as much help from Voltair.
Why not? “It’s a mystery,” says one expert. And it’s not predictable. The question is whether a particular song or voice is robust enough to keep carrying the PPM encoding for all the Nielsen bursts that happen about every five seconds. The only way to find out, it’s said, is to test on the air. It’s a bit like Hollywood when “the talkies” come to the movie business in the late 1920s, when some previously bankable stars found their voices didn’t translate well once the movies got soundtracks. That leads to some tough questions, particularly for talkshow and sports-talk hosts. If their voice isn’t particularly PPM-friendly, as determined by Voltair, is that bad for their career? Can something remedial be done? It’s easy to check out individual songs, and no doubt lists of bad-testing songs are circulating inside PPM-using companies. But it’s a lot tougher for a talkshow host. FYI, Voltair says “we’ve promised our customers we wouldn’t tell” who’s using the black box. But “We can tell you that we’ve sold over 500, and they’re on the air in every PPM market.” Read the latest FAQ (frequently asked questions list) from Telos here.
They don’t have Voltair in Canada, but “overall TSL to music is up 20%.”
Now – let’s quickly note that we’re talking about time spent listening to music from all sources, meaning AM/FM radio but also streaming music heard on tablets and smartphones. The growth since 2013 among the teen demo is even more striking, up 40% in a year. A new Nielsen Music 360 Canada study is particularly intriguing, since in that country, it tracks streaming. Canada doesn’t have Pandora (yet), but Spotify occupies some of the space Pandora does in the U.S. (Though Spotify’s an on-demand interactive service, unlike Pandora.) Nielsen Music says “Millennials are adopting Spotify twice as rapidly as the total [audience], while teens more often use Google Play.” Even with all those choices and with “at least half of all smartphone and computer owners using a digital music service,” Nielsen says “Radio remains the top format for discovery, with two-thirds of Canadians using radio to discover new music.”
The diary still rules in the nation’s capital (Ottawa, Canada).
Meaning that Canada's fourth-largest market is still measured by diary, not the Numeris-administered PPM technology. Ratings maven Chris Huff offers a quick look at the stations measured by Numeris, formerly known as BBM – In the Anglo half of the ratings for Ottawa, Chris says “No contest here, as CBC-1 outlet CBO runs away with the market, doing news/talk. It scores its largest share ever, moving 18.8 to 23.4 with age 12+ AQH share. Second place goes to Bell Media’s talk CFRA, 10.0-9.2. And in third place is the leading music outlet, Newcap’s CHR ‘Hot 89.9’ CIHT, 10.1-8.5. Rogers’ classic rock CHEZ rises to its best share in five years, 6.4-7.2.” Chris says “with CKKL’s flip from variety hits ‘Bob’ last Fall, Ottawa is the only Canadian market with an FM-versus-FM country battle. Bell Media’s ‘New Country 94’ CKKL debuts with a 2.7 [doing “94 minutes commercial-free at 9am and 4pm”]. Rogers’ “Country 101.1’ CKRY takes a 6.7-4.2 hit.” There’s a Francophone section of the Ottawa ratings, and Huff says Bell Media’s AC “Rouge 94.9” CIMF “continues to dominate, 22.2-24.4. It’s only fallen below the 20-share mark twice in the last decade.” And let’s jet out west to Winnipeg, where Chris spies “lots of upheaval...Corus-owned news/talk CJOB slides 13.6-11.5, the first time it’s not led the market since Fall 1997, and its smallest share in history.” See how Canada’s Numeris consortium reports the diary ratings, here.
‘Royal prank” jock Mel Greig opens up about the two-year depression she’s coming out of.
Also the new job she just landed, all on a conference panel in Sydney, Australia. In a December 2012 phone prank for Sydney’s top 40 2Day FM, Greig posed as Queen Elizabeth II and her then-partner Michael Christian was “Prince Charles.” That started a chain of circumstances that culminated in the suicide of a London nurse caring for Duchess Kate Middleton. Now Greig tells the Mumbrella 360 panel that “basically, our integrity failed, common sense failed, and the process failed, when that call was aired.” Note the way she says that, about the process. As we’ve been saying here, it was management at Southern Cross Austereo that deliberated for an hour before deciding to air the tape of the call. Greig finally reached for professional help with the “really deep depression” she suffered, after receiving death threats from around the world. She says “when you go completely numb from depression, you can’t feel anything…and you need to get help.” After being rejected by potential employers “about hundred times…yesterday, I got a ‘yes.’” Mel’s starting a content marketing manager for an advertising agency. More from Mashable here.
A nearly-dead AM in Beaumont-Port Arthur sells for $100 and somebody better get KSET/1300 back on the air ASAP. It’s been living with a series of Special Temporary Authority “silent” grants from the FCC, as owner Proctor-Williams claimed financial hardship and loss of a programming supplier. The buyer is Christopher Boone’s Southeast Texas Telecom, and this will be its only broadcast property. KSET is licensed to Lumberton, Texas and runs 2,000 watts daytime/270 watts at night. Price for this rescue station - $100. Buyer Christopher Boone also agrees to pay any past-due regulatory fees owed to the Commission.
Two neighboring Catholic Dioceses – one in the U.S., one in Mexico - end a 7-year programming partnership with Mega Radio’s Mexican-licensed XEWR Juarez/1110. The split’s over money and renewal terms. The El Paso Times quotes the El Paso Diocese spokeswoman saying “in the end, [we] were not able to reconcile the differences, and the Diocese will pursue other avenues for broadcasting.” The LMA was mostly handled by the Mexican-based Diocese of Juarez, with the Diocese of El Paso using ten hours a week for “El Pasa En Mision.” Mega Radio quickly re-branded XEWR as “Cristo Rey Radio,” for Christ the King, but the El Paso Diocese says “we request that our listeners not send donations in our name to Cristo Rey Radio.” It’s hoping to find a suitable FM station, working with the Open Arms Charismatic Community – which applied for an FCC license nine years ago.
“Ask me almost anything” is the candid opening session of next month’s Conclave Learning Conference, and it stars Hubbard Radio CEO Ginny Morris, NRG Media CEO Mary Quass, Cumulus CMO Pierre Bouvard, Max Media-Norfolk GM Dave Paulus and Entercom-Milwaukee VP/Ops Brian Kelly. That’s also the session where the Conclave will present its scholarship awards, and it’s just the beginning of an intensive two-day Conclave that finishes on Friday with a special BMI Storytellers appearance by Daughtry. More about the July 16-17 Conclave Learning Conference here.
The New York Press Club awards “Death at Rikers Island” its top “Gold Keyboard Award” for journalism, for an investigative series from the Associated Press. The Press Club competition logged nearly 500 entries from journalists in radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, newswires (like the AP) and the Internet. The Gold Keyboard prize will be awarded at next Monday night’s annual awards and installation dinner at the Water Club – where CBS New York (880) afternoon anchor Steve Scott will begin his term as president. Jane Tillman Irving is first VP and Joe Connolly is second VP. More about the NY Press Club here.
Radio Express, the international firm founded by Tom Rounds, takes on the jacapps line from Jacobs Media, and will rep it to stations in Latin America and Africa. The company calls Radio Express “the world’s leading supplier of entertainment programming to radio outside the U.S.” It began that role in the 1980s, after American Top 40 syndicator “American Top 40” was sold to ABC Radio. Watermark co-founder Rounds saw the potential for exporting American radio products beyond U.S. borders, and Radio Express (helped out by having the international rights to AT 40) was born. While we’re on the subject of Watermark – the name of Ron Jacobs, one of its founders, can be glimpsed in the closing credits for the new Bradley Cooper/Emma Stone flick called “Aloha,” shot in Jacobs’ home state of Hawaii.
Former ESPN analyst (and college/NFL player) Craig James steps onto the podcasting field, and his first guests are NFL legend Roger Staubach and Baylor football coach Art Briles. “Airing It Out with Craig James” is from Compass Media Networks, and it debuts this week.
“A deal between Dish and T-Mobile [would be] akin to two people who hook up because they are the last ones left in the bar at closing time.” That’s Ina Fried at Re/code, analyzing the merits of a deal she calls “the ultimate marriage of convenience.” Fried says “each partner has its good parts…T-Mobile is an aggressive, fast-growing upstart in wireless, while Dish has deep spectrum holdings. Together, they can offer a combination of services that neither was able to do solo.” Read more here. Still no word from the feds about approval for Dish rival DirecTV merging with AT&T in a $49 billion deal – though the Washington Post says approval is likely “in a few weeks.” That would make a Dish/T-Mobile deal more urgent.
“CHR: Where women listen to other women, even consecutively.” Music observer/researcher Sean Ross says “while a debate rages about the role of female artists at country radio, the presence of female artists at top 40 is on the upswing, after an atypically low 2014.” He says “the successful top 40 of the last decade has always felt like a format driven by female artists” – and now he’s crunched the numbers on “the 50 most-played CHR singles for each of the last three years according to Nielsen BDSRadio.” See what Sean discovered at the Wise Buddah-IMGR-hosted “Ross On Radio” here.
“Eight sad truths about women in media” is the list from Time Magazine based on analysis of the annual report from the Women’s Media Center. Among the “sad truths” is the finding that women have “actually lost ground” in sports journalism. While overall, “the news industry still hasn’t achieved anything that resembles gender equality” and “women are losing traction behind the scenes.” More here.
Ken Charles can finally come off the beach (literally, in Miami). He’s been waiting out a six-month non-compete with iHeart as its former National Brand Manager for News, Talk and Sports. Ken had been based in Sacramento before relocating to Miami last year - and then soon parting ways with the company (January 8 NOW). His new job shuttles Ken back to California, this time as PD of CBS Radio’s all-news KNX Los Angeles (1070). The job’s been vacant for many months – and no doubt everybody’s happy that he’ll be starting on July 6. Dan Kearney is Senior VP/Market Manager for CBS-Los Angeles. Before Sacramento, Ken had programmed for iHeart/Clear Channel in Atlanta and Houston, over a 17-year span.
Sonny Jurgensen is probably as popular around Washington DC as any president who ever lived in the White House – heck, they never brought the NFL Redskins glory, the way Sonny did as a ‘Skins player. He then became a beloved member of the broadcast team, and Red Zebra Broadcasting says it’s renewed Sonny for the 2015-2016 season on the Redskins Radio Network. Sonny’s been on the air since 1981. Rick Carmean is the CEO of Red Zebra Broadcasting, and he says Sonny’s “unique perspective is irreplaceable.”
Stan Wall “led a remarkable life for over 70 years,” says western Pennsylvania promoter Henry DeLuca. Henry says “as a teenager living in Pittsburgher, Stan’s mother would drive him to deejay on WAKU, a small AM station in Latrobe. He later bought the station,” which became WQTW/1570. Stan’s other station was WLSW Greensburg, PA (103.9), which mostly simulcasts with the AM in a classic hits format. Stan Wall died Wednesday at 78, says Pat Cloonan at the Pittsburgh TribLive site, after a lifetime on the air, in station ownership and in concert promotion. Pittsburgh-based broker Ray Rosenblum knew Stan and tells this NOW Newsletter, “Stan was not only talented but courageous. He lived with a kidney dialysis machine for years, and he wouldn’t retire. He said radio ’keeps me alive.’”
Starting really young - John Baker, who runs his own recording business/record label in Princeton, and provides classical music concerts to Trenton-based WWFM-The Classical Network, says "When I was 12, I was uber-excited about all things radio, and was 'office-boy' at a local station, also helping out with sports. One of my duties was to assemble the remote equipment to go to the stadium for football games. This particular Saturday morning, I arrived on my bike at 7:30am. Upon entering the lobby, the sound from the monitor speaker was loud snoring. I ran to the control room to find the overnight guy sound asleep, head on the console table, mic open, record cued up. I switched the mic off and brought up a record, then gently tapped the talent on the shoulder. He asked groggily what time it was, and seemed very concerned when I told him, because his older brother was the GM. I asked if he could remember when he went 'out,' and noticed the near-empty bourbon bottle under the console. He mumbled something and I exited quickly. Whenever I saw him thereafter, he always seemed to have slight fear in his eyes. But we never spoke of it, and to my knowledge his brother never said anything." Remind you of your own early days? Take a minute to write your story down (you can omit incriminating call letters/names) and email “You Can’t Make This Up” – Tom@RTK-Media.com.
Take 2 on the Wolfe family selling its Columbus Dispatch and other print assets to New Media Investment Group – the family’s Columbus TV station is Channel 10/WBNS-TV, sharing calls with its radio stations, WBNS-AM/FM (1460/97.1). The TV station we mentioned yesterday, Channel 13/WTHR, is the Wolfes’ CBS affiliate in Indianapolis. Thanks to NOW Reader K.C. Carson (now in Columbia, SC, formerly at WBNS-FM) for catching that. While reader Chris Rollins adds some local lore, that “The WBNS calls are said to have derived from ‘Wolfe’s Banks, Newspapers and Shoes, though there is a story that the ‘B’ also stood for ‘books,’ because they printed books as well.”
Hope it’s a Triple Crown weekend for you, and see you back first thing Monday morning, any time after 4am Eastern, with the next Tom Taylor NOW Newsletter. We’ll keep telling radio’s stories, one day at a time, in one place. Want to reach this slightly-addicted readership with your company’s marketing message? Contact Kristy Scott - Kristy@RTK-media.com. Tom