|Legal hassles for Spotify & Sony
Labels who own stakes in Spotify are accused of “self-dealing.”
Sony is the test case, though American Idol-related 19 Recordings alleges in a lawsuit against Sony that “each of the major record labels also owns an interest in Spotify” and has “engaged in the same self-dealing as Sony.” 19 Recordings is the home of artists like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. It claims that Sony “negotiated the stake in Spotify and is also taking advertising income from Spotify [not shared with artists], in lieu of demanding fair-market royalty rates from the streaming company.” That’s from Billboard, which says 19 Records has added that charge to its earlier suit against Sony, one of the record industry’s Big Three. Billboard got its hands on a redacted copy of the amended complaint filed under seal (kept private by the court). 19 says “Together and individually, Sony and the other major record labels have significant power to exert control over Spotify in order to not only dictate how revenue will be paid…but wrongfully and in bad faith divert money from royalties.” Billboard says “many insiders have long anticipated” a claim such as this, “ever since word of Sony’s stake in Spotify (more than 5%) began circulating five years ago.” Another angle – if/when Spotify goes public, Sony and the other early partners stand to make monster profits.
NAB’s Gordon Smith – “We expect good news soon” on FM chips in phones.
Smith tells the New York State Broadcasters Association Summer Conference that “Sprint has already done it” – activated FM chips in its phones. And that “We are making tremendous progress in a free market to get chips lit up.” By “free market,” the association President/CEO means they’re not pushing Congress for a chip mandate (which they’d never get). Smith’s one of the optimists who expects that more widespread availability of activated FM radio chips “will dramatically improve the terrestrial reach of the radio industry in this country.” But Gordon is keenly aware of the divergent strategies of his various constituents. He tells the NYSBA “We have two great companies in our radio membership…One of them views the future as being entirely on the streaming platform, and the other views the future entirely from the terrestrial platform.” The latter outfit is the one that’s particularly pushing for FM chips in cellphones. Beyond that, there’s “the automobile dashboard, and there is a difference of opinion among our members” there, too -
“If you have bought a new car lately, good luck finding a radio.”
More from Gordon Smith at the NYSBA confab at the downtown Manhattan Conrad Hilton – He says if you’re sitting in a new car, “you have got to work at [locating the radio]…And when you do find it, what should it look like? Should it remain simple as it has been?” He says “Younger people like things really interactive, and there is a thought of one group in our industry that wants thing to be more upbeat and more technologically taxing…So we have to decide these issues.” The thing is – Ford, Toyota, Mercedes, GM, BMW, Nissan and Hyundai are (sorry for the pun) in the driver’s seat when it comes to the new hardware and interfaces. Not to mention Google (with Android) and Apple (with CarPlay). “Simple” would be nice, but it’s probably not in the cards, and that’s a real marketing issue for terrestrial radio. Just where is the local AM/FM station in that 747-cockpit-like new dashboard infotainment system?
“Time to eradicate pirate stations,” says FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly.
He calls them “poison ivy in a neglected garden” – a dig at the head gardener, FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, and his management priorities. Addressing the New York State Broadcasters Association, Mike was preaching to the converted – and his pulpit was in the middle of a whole lot of sinning. Namely, New York City, bombarded by dozens of unlicensed operators in the five boroughs and nearby northern New Jersey. In fact the junior Republican Commissioner says New York’s airwaves “are burdened with around 25% of the nation’s total pirate transmissions.” He says “Pirate radio represents a criminal attack on the integrity of our airwaves, at a time when spectrum has become more scarce and precious than ever before.” The good news is, “The Chairman has finally seen the light and committed to step up enforcement” as part of the re-org of the FCC field offices. To New York radio operators, that can’t happen soon enough. One FCC estimate is that there are 34 unlicensed stations just in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Read O’Rielly’s remarks to the NYSBA here.
Coming this Fall to satellite radio – “Fox News Headlines 24/7” – and yes, it sells ads.
SiriusXM Channel 115 will be all-news (no political opinion shows), and produced by Fox News. There will be contributions by Fox News anchors like Shepard Smith, but it’s pitched as a news service. SiriusXM and Fox News say it will be “staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.” Fox News Senior VP of News Jay Wallace will be running the operations. (He’ll continue his duties at Fox News Channel.) And there will indeed be commercials. “Headlines 24/7” will use “the resources of Fox News, Box Business Network, Fox News Radio, Foxnews.com and Foxbusiness.com.” The existing Fox News Radio operation continues in syndication to terrestrial stations, and the “Fox News Talk” opinion channel continues on SiriusXM (and in terrestrial syndication). Here’s the current neighborhood around Channel 115 – Fox Business is Channel 113, and Fox News Channel is 114, both simulcasting the audio of their respective cable services. At the moment, Channel 115 is allocated to CNN and Channel 116 to sister HLN. The Fox News Talk service is up at Channel 450. SiriusXM President/Chief Content Officer Scott Greenstein is “excited to expand our relationship with Fox News to include this original and exclusive channel.” No word leaking out yet about terms of the partnership.
Disney, working through its list, deals away S.F.-market KMKY/1310.
Just as Disney was building up a niche radio business in the late 1990s when it bought then-KDIA Oakland for $6,250,000, the buyers of today’s Radio Disney affiliate KMKY are pursuing their own vision. Various members of Fresno-based Radio Mirchi are interested in ethnic broadcasting. They’re paying $600,000 to Disney for 5,000-watt fulltimer KMKY at 1310. The principals of Radio Mirchi are president Sukhdev Dhillon, who’s based in British Columbia and has been involved in ethnic broadcasting in Canada for years. Also 50% owner and CEO Charanjit Batth, who together with Dhillon owns “Radio Punjab” KIGS Hanford (620). Through “Spice Radio,” Dhillon and Narinder Singh Ghag are buying Fresno-market KQEQ Fowler/1210 (May 28 NOW). Spice is also acquiring Sacramento-market KEBR Rocklin/1210. So let’s expect that San Francisco-market KMKY is headed to a similar ethnic format, after the closing of the $600,000 cash deal. Broker for seller Disney is Virginia-based Bill Schutz. He’s been handling the intended sales of 23 Radio Disney O&Os, now more than halfway completed.
“We know who used Voltair to boost Spring PPM ratings” in Canada, says Steve Kowch.
The former Canadian group programmer and now talent coach hears that “Evanov Communications, Corus, Newcap and Bell tested the technology…Newcap had Voltair on most of their stations. Bell tested it out on one of their AM stations.” The companies themselves haven’t copped to using the Telos Alliance/25-Seven audio processor, just as no U.S. operator has. But let’s make it plain right now that (as NOW said last week) the way the PPM device is used by Canada’s Numeris industry/advertiser/agency consortium has important differences from the way Nielsen uses it. For one thing, Canada has minute-by-minute ratings, not quarter hour ones. The suggestion is that Voltair might produce a more noticeable effect in Canada than in the U.S. Steve Kowch hears from a source who says “It definitely impacted the stations” who used it. Kowch himself cites “major variances in the ratings” for stations using the box, and “that caught the attention of Numeris.” You no doubt recall that Numeris ordered all stations to pull the box, while it undertook a 60-day test. (Yesterday’s NOW Newsletter had L.A.-based consultant Mark O’Neill’s own prescription for running a valid test, and one reader says, mysteriously, “It’s already been done.”) Steve Kowch’s source “expects positive results from Numeris testing,” and an eventual “level playing field.” Read Kowch’s column at Puget Sound Radio here.
More on Voltair –
There’s a 15-minute video of the device’s father (if you will), Dr. Barry Blesser, explaining his concept at the NAB Show in April. That clip’s been posted to YouTube, and you can view it here. Meanwhile, at least one radio market manager has written both the NAB and RAB, asking them to pay attention to the Voltair flap. He says even if they don’t take sides, he urges them to “demand that Nielsen address this issue definitively, so that broadcasters can act or react to such a statement.”
Howard Stern claims he’s done with “America’s Got Talent” on NBC television – though as the New York Post wisely observes, “whether he’s serious or is negotiating publicly for a new contract remains to be seen.” AGT has been a terrific platform for Howard (ask a 20-something about Howard Stern, and they’re more likely to recognize him from TV than from his SiriusXM radio show). Howard said on yesterday’s radio show he’ll leave America’s Got Talent at the end of this season, his fourth on the show that literally moved production from the West Coast to New York to accommodate him. The reported figure when he cut the deal was $15 million. In typical Stern fashion, he also says he’s entertaining an offer from a different TV show.
Did three daytime hosts at Denver’s talk KLZ/560 just resign en masse? The Denver Post says Randy Corporon (5-8am), Ken Clark (1-3pm) and Kris Cook (6-8pm) “resigned as a protest over ‘journalistic integrity and control of the content of their shows,’ including what they said was an order [from Crawford management] that former Congressman Tom Tancredo could not be a guest” on the station. It’s a local Colorado thing, but Tancredo’s embroiled in a controversy with state Republican Party Chairman Steve House. The Post says KLZ manager Don Crawford Jr. didn’t want either Tancredo or House appearing on the station until he “can better understand what’s happening.” As of last night, Corporon, Clark and Cook were still listed on the station website.
The 2015 Edward R. Murrow award-winners are revealed by the RTDNA, and they range from New Hampshire Public Radio and CBS Radio’s WCBS New York (small- and large-market “Overall Excellence,” respectively) to ABC News Radio (“overall excellence” in network radio for the second year in a row), and CBS World News Roundup (“Newscast”). CBS Radio News also wins for “Continuing coverage” of “the war on Isis.” iHeart’s WRVA Richmond wins for small market continuing coverage, of Virginia’s “Giftgate Scandal” that reached the governor’s mansion. Bonneville’s KIRO-FM Seattle wins reporting awards for both Hard News and “Sports.” There are many proud winners this week, including Hailey Owens at Scripps-owned KTTS Springfield, Missouri for best small market radio newscast. Check the RTDNA (Radio Television Digital News Association) Murrow winners here.
Broadcasters Foundation of America welcomes four new directors, including Scott Herman, EVP Operations of CBS Radio and Jeff Warshaw, founder/CEO of Connecticut-based Connoisseur Media. There are also two new TV members – Valari Staab, President of the NBCUniversal owned TV station group and Citadel Communications President/COO Ray Cole. As the New York-based Foundation says, “Board members are highly-respected broadcast executives committed to ‘giving back’ through the foundation.” They help raise and distribute financial ad to broadcasters who have “lost their livelihood through a catastrophic event, debilitating disease or unforeseen family tragedy.” Learn how to support the Foundation here.
“jacapps” expands beyond smartphones to “everywhere,” says Fred Jacobs. He says “we saw the growing trends at the Consumer Electronic Show – it is essential that radio stations make it easier for consumers to connect with their content throughout the digital ecosystem.” The division of Jacobs Media that began by making smartphone apps now will be offering apps for platforms like the Apple Watch, smart TVs and Google Chromecast. They’ll be creating Apple Watch applications as Apple releases the Watch0S2 update this Fall.
Addicted to the “Trivia Crack” game? You’ll soon be hearing music and questions supplied by iHeartRadio in an updated edition. iHeart’s new pact with Trivia Crack parent Etermax makes it “the exclusive trivia question provider for its Music Channel, in the upcoming sequel to the highly-successful Trivia Crack game.” That’s due in the third quarter, and lets users “play trivia grouped by specific interests.” There’s also the chance for not-for-profits and educational institutions to have their own branded trivia channels. iHeartRadio’s Chief Product Officer Chris Williams says it’s “a perfect opportunity to share our wealth of music content and artist insights with a whole new audience.”
“K-Love” to West Palm Beach? The Palm Beach Post picks up on today’s scheduled vote by the board of Classical South Florida, where they it could choose to sell classical WPBI West Palm Beach, the big Class C1 at 90.7, to California-based Educational Media Foundation. EMF of course creates and distributes the contemporary Christian non-commercial “K-Love” format. As the Post says, “Palm Beach County could lose the only radio station that broadcasts National Public Radio.” That’s a reference to the HD2 signal of WPBI, which feeds a translator at 101.9 with non-commercial news/talk from NPR and other sources. The license is held by Classical South Florida, whose parent is Minnesota-based American Public Media Group. But the paper says “there’s a chance the sale might fail,” because of dissension on the board. They’re be looking for a different buyer, one who’d keep the format. It appears the parent in Minnesota is interested in the sale to EMF. Classical South Florida also owns classical WKCP Miami (89.7) and WNPS over in Ft. Myers (88.7). It bought Barry University’s WXEL four years ago for about $4 million and converted it from non-commercial news/talk to classical WPBI.
KLKC-AM/FM in Parsons, Kansas has been used for the last decade by owner Southeast Kansas Independent Living Resource Center partly as an employer for folks with disabilities. It’s also helped SKIL network with the business community, and now the Parsons Sun says the combo is being transferred to a new local entity led by Dr. Wayne Gilmore and Greg Chalker. Nothing filed at the FCC yet, but classic country “Katy Country” KLKC at 1540 (250 watts daytime/1 watt at night) and classic hits “Max FM” KLKC-FM (Class A at 93.5) are going to the new local “Parsons Media Group.”
Boston’s talk WMEX/1510 – with its tricky three-pattern directional facility - sells for $175,000. That’s a major markdown from the $20,500,000 that it and then-Rose City sister WSNR Jersey City/620 went for in 2007. Eight years ago the buyer was Peter Davidson at Blackstrap Broadcasting, and he and the lenders later went through some interesting times. Now Blackstrap is led by Louisville-based Russ Jones. He’s already banked $100,000 in a deposit from WMEX buyer Daly XXL Communications, and its principals will pay the $75,000 balance at closing. From yesterday’s filing, we learn that the LMA Daly XXL began in the Spring is basically an “all-expenses” deal. Wilmington, NC-led Daly XXL is led by Harry and Mary Catherine Remmer (with 99% between them) and her brother Bryan. He’s the GM and has 1% of the company. Daly XXL came in the door when a previous LMA with Wallis Communications ended. Four years ago, WMEX and WSNR were supposed to be sold to Media Americas for about $23.5 million, but that deal cratered. New York-market WSNR, now doing Russian-language programming, was sold to Davidzon Radio for $12.5 million, a whole lot more than WMEX is going for now. The Boston AM runs 50,000 watts fulltime – but with three different directional patterns for daytime, the so-called “critical hours” after sunset and before sunset, and at night (using four towers at night).
Western Pennsylvania’s non-com WRWJ Murrysville (88.1) is sold to a couple who mostly own commercial music stations like rock “103.1 KVE” WKVE Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania. But through a separate company, they operate a Christian teaching non-com in Clarksburg, West Virginia (WKJL/88.1), affiliated with a western Maryland ministry named “He’s Alive Inc.” And that’s who they’re buying this station in Murrysville, Pennsylvania from. It’s Class A WRWJ, located northeast of Pittsburgh, and Broadcast Educational Communications (Robert M. Stevens and Ashley R. Stevens) is paying $75,000 cash. The programming of He’s Alive is Christian teaching station (Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson, Phyllis Schlafly, Back to Genesis). The Stevenses hold their commercial stations through Broadcast Communications I and Broadcast Communications II. Deal credits go to Calvary Technical Management and Robert H. Branch, Jr., working for the seller.
“Canada’s fastest-growing small-market radio group is growing again,” says Scott Fybush of Northeast Radio Watch. The group is “My Broadcasting,” which buys three stations in Ontario from Pineridge Broadcasting. Those are Cobourg’s classic hits “107.9 the Breeze” CHUC and AC “Star 93.3” CKSG. Plus AC “Magic 96.7” CJWV in Peterborough. It will be allied with My Broadcasting’s all-sports “Extra 90.5 FM” CJMB Peterborough. No price announced but the added trio brings My Broadcasting up to 20 stations. Fybush observes that with this sale, Pineridge Broadcasting president Don Conway will be retiring. More about the northeast region of the U.S. and nearby Canada at Fybush.com here.
Don Bleu qualifies as a true San Francisco original, having appeared in mornings since he migrated to the city in 1981. He worked at then-KYUU until 1989, moved to AC KIOI for 22 years, and segued to iHeart’s sister classic hits “Big 103.7” KOSF in 2011. iHeart says his last show there will be tomorrow, and it will feature “a look back at his incredible career.” Listen to Don’s signoff online here. And coming up, a true-blue story about Don Bleu, in today’s edition of “You Can’t Make This Up” -
Don Bleu on the links - Brian Thomas, now New York-based Corporate Program Director for Cumulus, jokes that "I may have been Don's 26th program director at KIOI San Francisco. True story, though - I was playing golf with Don one afternoon, and we were both saying, ‘You know that if you get a hole in one, I can't be your witness, because I'm not supposed to be here.' Wouldn't you know it? He gets a hole in one, first one ever...and next morning, he busts me on the air. I was happy to see his first hole-in-one (it was worth it). Don will be missed on the radio." Remind you of your own true story about radio, the one you tell friends in the business? Email “You Can’t Make This Up” – Tom@RTK-Media.com.
Take 2’s – Numerous alert NOW readers caught yesterday’s goof about the radio moves of MLB teams in New York. The way things worked is that CBS-owned all-news WCBS/880 lost the Yankees, which moved to sister all-sports WFAN-AM/FM (660/101.9). It was the Mets who moved off the Fan to iHeart’s talk WOR/710. Another Take 2 is from Saga CFO Sam Bush, who emails to say that Saga, which just launched Asheville, NC-market classic hits “Rewind 100.3” on an HD Radio-fed translator, hasn’t yet closed on that translator. He says “we have given [seller] Georgia-Carolina Radiocasting our permission to rebroadcast our WTMT HD2 so they can test the signal while the transfer is pending.” Saga’s buying the Asheville move-in for $125,000. And in yesterday’s lead story about the Nielsen “Total Audience Report,” where radio’s 18+ weekly reach is 93% - Cumulus CMO Pierre Bouvard’s mention of TV’s reach at 76% was (as he said in his notes) for 18-34. The correct 18+ reach for TV is 87%. Study Nielsen’s multi-industry “Q1 Total Audience Report” here.
Hartley Adkins of iHeart, Pierre Bouvard of Cumulus, Beth Neuhoff of Neuhoff Communications and Jeff Warshaw of Connoisseur are among the panelists at today’s 32nd SNL Kagan Broadcast Finance Summit at Manhattan’s Union League Club. Also on hand, RAB leader Erica Farber and FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake. I'll be taking notes and pictures, and you'll have coverage from the SNL Kagan event in tomorrow’s NOW Newsletter. Want to reach this highly-engaged readership with your company’s marketing message? You want to talk to Kristy Scott - Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. See you back first thing tomorrow - Tom