|CBS tries to rally the troops
After Moonves comments, CBS Radio aims to pump up morale.
Radio President Andre Fernandez says “the primary course of action CBS Corporation is pursuing is to split off CBS Radio via an IPO.” He highlights “the many exciting benefits,” like “the opportunity to define our own operating strategy.” (As it is now, strategic decisions about matters like which stations to sell, and financial planning/direction, come strictly from corporate. It was that way in Dan Mason’s day, too.) Andre says “As a standalone company, we would most likely have a significantly greater focus on investing in ourselves, and the future of the business.” Fernandez touts the potential due to the “strength of our local brands and sound financial position.” But as we’ve seen with supposedly “slow-growth” media assets spun out of larger companies (like newspapers), a great deal depends on how the parent sets up the new company. How much debt would CBS load on a new public CBS Radio? How much cash would it have? And what obligations would it still owe to its parent? Andre’s right, that CBS corporate is thinking video, not radio. And he’s right that “with an IPO, there also comes the possibility of great professional growth for our employees.” Also the chance to buy more stations, with a strong balance sheet. But doing an IPO isn’t a sure thing. CBS is evaluating “strategic alternatives,” and it might choose selling its radio assets to somebody else (unlikely, but possible). It also might just sit tight. Fernandez says – rallying the front-line troops – that “what is certain is that the most effective way for all of us to proceed is to continue doing what we do best, day in and day out.” He vows to “remain communicative with all of you” – something that’s all the more necessary, given how CBS boss Les Moonves startled the radio division with his Investor Day comments. Folks are restless.
iHeart cries foul, says hedge-fund operator Paul Singer played both sides of a potential default.
iHeart tells a Texas court that Singer’s Elliott Management was buying credit default swaps (you remember those from the 2000s, right?) at the same time it owned a chunk of iHeart’s debt. As the New York Post phrases it, “Singer would have been in position to profit handsomely if iHeart went into default, because holders of credit default swaps get paid in full, if a company files for” Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (reorganization). That’s problematic. Debtwire had the first report of the court action filed by iHeart. That was in the same Texas court that gave iHeart two 14-day reprieves against a notice of default by some note-holders. iHeart’s looking for the judge to convert the temporary restraining order into a permanent injunction. Now it can pile on a claim against Elliott Management – that it was quietly buying credit default swaps while it and others prepared the March 7 “notice of default.” The Post quotes an iHeart creditor who says “I would not want to be Elliott right now...it certainly looks bad.” “Bad” is also how iHeart’s overall debt situation looks - $20.9 billion, and the company hasn’t reduced it below $20 billion since the mid-2008 going-private move led by Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners.
Pandora may sell its only terrestrial radio station.
It tells the FCC it may be selling recently-acquired Rapid City-market top 40 “Hits 102.7” KXMZ Box Elder. Why? Keeping it would require some organizational changes that would need to be voted on at the next annual meeting. That meeting’s going to look very different, too. Brian McAndrews left suddenly last week, and co-founder Tim Westergren took his CEO role. The scheme to buy a terrestrial station came up on McAndrews’ watch. Bloomberg picks up Pandora’s FCC filing about KXMZ, the station Pandora bought, hoping to qualify for cheaper streaming rates. But ASCAP battled Pandora for two years, arguing that nobody knew whether Pandora’s ownership exceeded the FCC’s 25% foreign-ownership limit for broadcast licensees. Pandora finally succeeded in paying Connoisseur $600,000 for KXMZ – but under Westergren, it could now be a seller. Among other things, the broadcast station-owner strategy ticked off the music business. Pandora really needs more friendly vibes in the music community.
“Political’s share of available TV ad time in some key markets could reach 40% to 50%.”
There should be genuine opportunities there for radio. A new Kantar Media study says “No other advertiser category has ever claimed or wanted even close to that amount of share.” Kantar’s Elizabeth Wilner says “We know a lot about where this tsunami will hit, starting with local news and the network affiliates that air it.” As for which markets will endure this tsunami (and heaven help the viewers), that narrows down to battleground states where the two parties are competitive. We already know that one radio group has a political specialist who’s pursuing the car dealers who are going to be squeezed out of TV by political media buyers. The geographical split could be more favorable for radio than before. Kantar says “While a Donald Trump ticket may shake up the 2016 battleground, adding states like Arizona, Georgia and Michigan, Trump’s biggest impact” could be down-ticket – House, Senate and local races where GOP leaders fear that Trump will threaten previously-safe candidates. It should create openings for radio, with both political buyers and those local car dealers. More from Kantar here.
Nielsen reports 13% higher AQH audience in PPM markets, and credits enhanced CBET.
Chief Engineer Arun Ramaswamy and recently-named Nielsen Audio Managing Director Brad Kelly say the real-world 13% year-over-year growth tracks the 15% bump they found in last year’s field testing. That was before Nielsen pushed CBET out into the marketplace. Some stations have told this NOW Newsletter they’ve yanked the new CBET (“Critical Band Encoding Technology”), because of perceived issues of audio quality. (Like audible “artifacts” introduced into the signal.) Others were saying yesterday that this is Nielsen admitting that the original PPM software wasn’t exactly Grade-A. Nielsen says “nearly 3,000 U.S. stations have upgraded to enhanced CBET.” That would be three-quarters of their subscribers in PPM markets, and “about 80% of the minutes measured by PPM.” Arun and Brad are looking at competitive media – “Our goals were to bring audio’s metrics in line with other media, and better reflect a more complex consumer environment.” Nobody mentions the V-word - “Voltair,” the 25-Seven-produced audio processor plugged into the audio chain by some eager stations. After Voltair, Nielsen introduced enhanced CBET. Nielsen hopes to win over skeptics with this new data. Format-wise, it says “Spanish language, urban, spoken word, AC and classic hits/oldies formats each had increases that exceed the overall average” of 13%. Read the statement from Arun and Brad here.
The FCC has processed 80% of the 600 translator apps filed in the waiver window.
Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake promises they’ll “continue to process [the remainder] to provide relief to the AM broadcaster applicants.” The unprecedented six-month window for Class D and Class C stations to find and move an existing translator up to 250 miles is open through late July. Then a new three-month window open to all AM classes should generate a new burst of filings. In yesterday’s blog post Bureau Chief Lake highlights other breaks for AM operators, like letting them use “new energy-saving MDCL technologies.” In its ongoing Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on AM Revitalization, the FCC’s getting an ear-ful of ideas. Among them
• The “AM Radio Preservation Alliance” defends the public service record and potential of Class A signals, the bigger ones whose nighttime skywaves can be heard hundreds of miles away. The Alliance says some proposals in the FCC Rulemaking “clearly would diminish or eliminate the ability of established listeners to tune into well-known and treasured AM stations providing high-quality programming.” Several commenters already quoted here have noted how much evening and late-night fare is syndicated, and available on multiple signals. But the Alliance says Class A stations “have played invaluable roles in providing the public with critical and often life-saving information.” Alliance members are Alpha Media, Bonneville, CBS Radio, Cox, Cumulus, Entercom, Family Stations, Grand Ole Opry LLC (Nashville’s WSM), Greater Media, Hearst, Hubbard, iHeart, NRG, Scripps, Townsquare, Tyler Media and WGN Chicago owner Tribune Broadcasting. Read the Alliance comments, calling Class A’s “the anchor stations” of the AM band,” here.
• Think harder about all-digital AM, says DTS, the tech company that bought HD Radio developer iBiquity last Fall. It says “the all-digital AM HD Radio system moves the digital energy to the center of the AM channel, reducing overlap between adjacent-channel AM signals, and reducing adjacent-channel interference.” That’s different from the hybrid technology, where stations piggyback both analog and digital signals. (As the late AM-band advocate Leonard Kahn used to joke, the iBiquity system for AM was not in-band, on-channel, but “in-band, on somebody else’s channel.”) DTS also urges the FCC not to adopt any technical rule changes that would “negatively impact the rollout” of digital AM. And it’s a fan of the expanded band (1610-1700). Read the DTS filing here.
• “Since 1 in 7 people listen to AM radio, regulatory fees should reflect that.” New England AM owner Bob Bittner offers comments in two areas, about technical improvements and “suggestions to make operating AM stations more affordable.” In that category falls his comment about regulatory fees – they should be lowered for AMs, compared to FMs. Not only that, within the AM category, he says “50,000-watt WBZ Boston pays approximately $9,300 annually,” while his 250-watt Boston-market daytimer WJIB/740 pays $5,600. (His total 2015 income for WJIB - $109,000.) Bittner himself calculates costs of stations like Boston-market WJIB/740 down to the penny and makes them available to his listener-supporters. On the technical front, Bittner still likes the signal protections for clear channel stations, but says “they can easily give up a portion of their nighttime coverage” to help far-off co-channel stations that protect them. Read Bittner’s ideas here. Bittner would give FM translators more protection and AM owners the option to turn off their AM signal. So would another operator –
• Let AM stations with a translator “surrender their AM license in exchange for primary status for the translator.” That’s Ben Downs of Bryan Broadcasting in Texas, and a former NAB Radio Board member. He says letting stations turn in their AM licenses would mitigate some of the interference on the band, and give daytime AM operators a full-time signal to serve their communities with. Speaking of that mission, Bryan Broadcasting has one of the 25 “paired” expanded-band stations. The FCC’s original plan with the 1610-1700 spectrum was to require stations to turn in either their lower-band signal or the x-band signal, after five years. Some did, but 25 are left operating both. Ben says that after surveying the others, “none of the pairs are simulcasting,” and most are doing non-English, African-American-targeted or niche formats that shouldn’t be lost. He’d let that state of affairs continue until there’s a new AM filing window. Read Ben Downs’ comments here.
The Commission won’t change the rules for Emergency Alerts for speakers of Spanish and other non-English languages, after all. Hurricane Katrina flooded much of New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast in 2005, and the MMTC, Independent Spanish Broadcasters Association and the United Church of Christ petitioned the FCC to make stations pay attention to minority populations that don’t speak English. (The only Spanish station in New Orleans at the time was off the air for an extended period of time.) We’re now a decade past Katrina and the FCC continues to grapple with the complicated issue. In yesterday’s Order, it recognizes that “alternative mechanisms and technologies for providing multilingual alerting have continued to advance” since the original petition. It declines to change its Part 11 rules about EAS, the Emergency Alert System. But it does adopt new reporting rules for State EAS plans, as you can read here.
Who wants to win a cash award and industry recognition for superior radio creative work? The Radio Mercury Awards competition is in its 25th year, and they’ve just extended the deadline for entry until Friday, April 22. Same for the deadline for eligibility – submissions can be spots that ran up to April 22. There’s a $50,000 Best of Show prize, plus another $40,000 in awards. The Radio Mercury competition is for radio spots, campaigns, PSAs, integrated campaigns (a fairly new category) and promos created by stations and agencies. Student work is recognized, too. Study the rules and learn how to enter here.
Emmis licenses its “Hot 97 Summer Jam” brand in Japan, where Hot 97 has “a passionate following.” President Pat Walsh says “hip-hop is experiencing enormous growth in popularity among Japanese Millennials,” and the late-July 2016 “Hot 97 Summer Jam Tokyo” is expected to book some Japanese hip-hop acts. Emmis has been leveraging its two big brands in the format, L.A.’s “Power 106” KPWR and New York’s Hot 97/WQHT. With this deal, it signs a multi-year license agreement with Japan’s Avex Live Creative. Avex agrees to use Trevanna Entertainment, which is closely involved in WHQT’s annual Summer Jam at MetLife Stadium in North Jersey.
The MIW Group chooses four mentees for the 15th year of the Mildred Carter MIW Group Mentoring Program, named for the woman who co-founded and ran America’s first African-American-owned station, Kansas City’s KPRS. These mentees will get special attention and guidance from the Mentoring & Inspiring Women Group, adding to the 35 who’ve already completed the program. The class of 2016 is Kathy Byerly (Neuhoff Media-Decatur). Charlie Maxx (Beasley PD in Wilmington, Delaware). Brittney Quarles (local sales manager for Radio One in Richmond). And Stephani Sabota, a Cox GSM in Tampa.
Cue a new full-time classical music service for Bowling Green, Kentucky, thanks to Western Kentucky U.’s lease of a re-engineered 250-watt translator. Charles M. Anderson-owned W248CF at 97.5 will rebroadcast the HD2 signal of the school’s news/talk WKYU (88.9). When Anderson bought then-W249CS at 97.9 from Starboard in 2014, he indicated it would rebroadcast the main signal of WKYU. With some final tech work being done, the new 97.5 should be in to the all-classical HD2 signal by mid-April, says the Bowling Green Daily News.
North of the Twin Cities, Red Rock Radio “restores a soft oldies format that had been heard” on WCMP Pine City, Minnesota/1350 “for decades,” says North Pine. Red Rock put WCMP into the regional “Red Zone Sports Radio” simulcast in mid-2014, and you can see the remainder of the network here.
In Point Pleasant, West Virginia, a translator moves “0.00 miles” – that’s what it says on the application – but will gain more power by changing frequency from 105.9 to 94.1. Not only is the translator not moving its antenna, it will continue to rebroadcast daytimer WBGS at 1030 AM. But there’s more going on here, says Radio Insight - a format change from southern gospel “Faith Radio” to top 40 as “94Q FM.” The AM takes fresh calls of WTHQ, and this is all being done by the Baker family. It owns the AM through Big River Radio and the translator through Positive Alternative Radio.
Stephens Media adds four more stations in Oklahoma, this time around Ardmore. David Stephens is fling the deal as SMG-Ardmore LLC and here’s the quartet he’s buying from LKCM Radio Group – “Texoma Country” KKAJ, a Class C2 at 95.7 licensed to Davis. Classic hits “GTO 107,” which stands for “Good Times Oklahoma.” It’s KYNZ Lone Grove, a C3 at 107.1. There’s “Texoma Rocks” KTRX Dickson, an A at 92.7. And sports KVSO, a thousand-watter at 1240 licensed to Ardmore. Broker on the sale to Stephens – Kalil & Co.
“The only stations that cover the entire Florida Keys” are sold yet again, as last Fall’s $750,000 announced sale to Tradewinds Radio is replaced by an $850,000 sale to different buyers. Those are Jonathan L. Smith and Karen Moses-Bowling of Choice Radio Keys Corp. Smith has extensive interests in Kentucky radio, and uses the “Choice” name there for stations like country “K105.7” WTBK Manchester. Maybe he’s ready to buy some Scuba gear, with the purchase of “Keys Talk 1300” WFFB Marathon (2,500 watts fulltime) and a trimulcast of oldies-formatted FMs. They do business as “The Mix.” (Homepage is here.) The “Upper Keys” signal is WKEZ-FM, a Class C3 licensed to Tavernier. The “Middle Keys” property is WGMX Marathon, a C2 at 94.3. And the “Lower Keys” are serviced by WKEY-FM, a C2 licensed to tourist-magnet Key West at 93.7. Seller is Joe Nascone’s Great Marathon Radio Company. In 1990 he bought the two Marathon stations, then in 2011 paid iHeart-connected Aloha Station Trust $580,000 for the FMs in Tavernier and Key West. Last Fall (October 28 NOW) he filed the $750,000 sale to Tradewinds, with an indication in the sale document about needed equipment repairs. Now comes this $850,000 sale to Choice. It’s laying down a $25,000 deposit, and paying the balance of $825,000 in a 60-month seller note at 4% interest. Broker (as with the Tradewinds deal) is George Reed of Media Services Group.
An Iowa translator is worth $45,000 cash to buyer Ael Suhr Enterprises, which tells the Commission it will re-broadcast EMF’s contemporary Christian non-com “K-Love” O&O KAIP, licensed to Wapello, Iowa (88.9). But we’ll see what Mr. Suhr has in mind, long-term. Ael Suhr Enterprises also owns CHR “Y99.3” KWAY and country “Winner 1470” KWAY in Waverly, Iowa. Seller of translator K257FB is Twin Falls-based Edgewater Broadcasting (Clark Parrish). The deal would shift it about 50 miles southwest, from Davenport.
Up in Richland, Washington state, Edgewater’s selling a translator to Jeff Jacobs of Jacobs Radio Programming. Jeff indicates he’d use the translator to rebroadcast top 40 “Z Fun 106” KZFN Moscow, Idaho - quite a distance away. The translator’s currently K263BJ at 100.5, but the frequency and location could change. The deal is worth $22,000.
Anthony Cumia is “headed to rehab,” says TheBlaze.com. After being fired by SiriusXM from the “Opie & Anthony Channel” in 2014 following an angry incident and some tweets, Anthony launched his own subscription audio business. But TheBlaze reports yesterday’s quote from “The Anthony Cumia Show” – “I’m gonna be away. I will not see the month of April here...Saturday, I am taking a plane out of here. Let’s just say relaxing, learning, ‘rehabilitating’ is a word that could be used.” He recently got in trouble following what appeared to be a violent encounter with a girlfriend who Periscoped the thing live (December 21 NOW). See Anthony’s Twitter page for a list of guest hosts for April, and encouraging words from friends, here.
P.J. Kling has programmed in Chicago (WKQX), West Palm (WLDI) and Wichita (KKRD/KZCH). He was also Director of User Insight for Tribune Interactive, probably at a time when Carolyn Gilbert, now president of NuVoodoo Media services, was there. Kling’s next move is to join NuVoodoo in the newly-created position of Vice President of Product & Business Development. The company says he’ll be involved with customers “from soup to nuts, doing hands-on work with client projects, optimizing project impact and working on product development.” And he’ll work on expanding “relationships with stations, artists and labels.” He’s at cell 312-622-1544 and PJ@NuVoodoo.com.
John Borders – a.k.a. “Johnny Dark” at Dallas’s original top 40 KLIF – has passed away. Friends had said his health was bad and yesterday Charlie Van Dyke posted the news of Borders’ death on Facebook. John worked extensively on-air in Texas and Oklahoma, then became a station owner via companies like Sunburst Media. Sunburst eventually grew to about 20 stations – and John had a well-timed cash-out, selling many of his properties around 2000. Borders later came back for another round of station ownership, with partner Don Turner. One friend says “John was greatly responsible for the development and upgrades of many stations.” One dealmaker offered a quick comment about Borders last night – “Good guy.”
Rick Aurichio led Arbitron until he was succeeded by Steve Morris in late 1992, and he ran it for both Minneapolis-based Control Data and then one of its spinoff companies, Ceridian. The Hilton Head Island Packet reports that local resident Aurichio died March 19 after a bout with cancer. He was 79. Rick grew up in Nutley, NJ (also where Martha Stewart was raised), and earned his MBA at nearby Fairleigh Dickinson University. He was attracted to sales and marketing, and in 1972 he began his career at Arbitron. Aurichio continued to consult for the company after Morris took over (and brought a more flexible approach to some relationships). Rick and his wife Kathy moved full-time to Haig Point, South Carolina, where Rick wrote five novels and a book of non-fiction. The family’s asking for donations in lieu of flowers to be made to the Good Neighbor Fund of the First Union African Baptist Church of Daufuskie Island.
Who let the cat in? – NOW Reader Brian Beddow says “When I was programming rock ‘Banana’ WWBN-FM in Flint, we required each full-time host to pull one Saturday show per month. This meant that most Saturday afternoons, our audience was treated to a four-hour block hosted by a hungover, disinterested member of our staff. That is, except when our Promotions Director Chad Barron would host. He'd always try to do something memorable. One Saturday, Chad started playing a sound effect of a cat meowing every two to three minutes. He’d drop it in during a talk break, in commercials and yes, even during music. It wasn't long before the audience began to call to ask about the meowing cat. (These calls were of course aired.). Soon, after Chad ‘admitted’ he heard the cat, he made an on-air call to the station engineer, who ‘realized’ he must have left the door on the back of the transmitter open the last time he was on site. So the meowing sound must be coming from a stray cat that wandered into the transmitter shed and found the open door. Chad ‘dispatched’ the engineer to the site to get the cat out of the transmitter, and of course close the door. Great example of creativity and harmless fun.” Want to share your own favorite radio story? Email “You Can’t Make This Up” – Tom@RTK-Media.com.
Tomorrow is April Fools Day, and here’s hoping for some funny, creative bits that reflect well on radio and don’t make the FCC dust off its “Hoax Rule.” Attorney David Oxenford has a good quick reminder about how to avoid the hoax rule “and other potential liability,” for those doing last-minute planning. (Read it here.) Want to reach this audience of slightly-addicted NOW readers, with your company’s marketing message? Talk to our Kristy Scott. She’s at Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. She’s also available to meet at next month’s NAB Show in Las Vegas. See you back first thing tomorrow morning with the next NOW Newsletter - Tom
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