|Morris likes Alpha dog
Morris bets big on Alpha Media, taking half its $38.25 million sale price in stock.
More than half – for the sale of its more than 30 stations, family-owned Morris Communications agrees to accept $20 million in the stock of privately-held Larry Wilson-led Alpha Holdings, plus an equal number of shares (8,196,722 units) in sister Alpha Holdings II. That second group of shares is valued at just $6,585 total, but it could play an important role in the next chapter of Alpha – if Alpha successfully goes public. The rest of the purchase price, $18,250,000, is payable in cash at closing. If the deal craters because Alpha pulls back, Morris has recourse by drawing on Alpha’s $1,912,500 letter of credit. Seller Morris also gets additional cash at closing based on working capital, as much as $2,750,000. So Larry Wilson and Bob Proffitt of Alpha really want this deal (seen in the net working capital). And Morris is apparently betting on a potential Alpha initial public offering.
Alpha begins some LMAs with Morris.
We knew the outline of the deal first rumored here back on March 6 and finally confirmed on May 19 – Alpha’s entering Anchorage (including country “K-Bear” KBRJ), Topeka (including the heritage combo of news/talk WIBW and country WIBW-FM), Salina-Manhattan (Kansas), Aberdeen-Hoquiam (Washington state), plus Palm Springs and Victor Valley. Those latter two California markets will begin LMAs before closing, which will give Alpha partner Bob “Doc” Fuller a particular pleasure, since he’s based there for much of the year. Broker for buyer Alpha is George Reed of Media Services Group.
All’s quiet on the Digity deal front – so far.
Even after the $38.25 million Morris catch, Alpha chief Larry Wilson’s appetite isn’t sated and he’d love to own Digity properties like San Jose’s AC KBAY (94.5) and hot AC “Mix 106.5” KEZR. And who wouldn’t? They’re gems. This NOW Newsletter continues to believe that the stations of Dean Goodman’s Digity are on the market in some form, unless he can find a backer to replace Garrison Investment Group. Digity’s a tempting target for Alpha, but there are at least some interested parties looking to chisel off particular pieces of Digity. It’s been six weeks since the NAB Show in Vegas and some of that deal-talk should be getting closer to real negotiations. Deals don’t usually get announced immediately after the Show. But there’s a long history of deals being unwrapped just before the Fall Radio Show. Elsewhere – re: any possible post-Lincoln Financial dealings by Entercom, that’s off the radar until the feds clear the $105 million acquisition. But Entercom CEO David Field did a masterful job of negotiating a direct deal with Lincoln Financial, so perhaps any conversations he’s having now about followup swaps and sales wouldn’t get anywhere near the front door. Field’s proven he can keep the lid on.
New way to buy listeners? “GM patents a way to auction off your radio pre-sets.”
Damon Lavrinc writes at Jalopnik that General Motors has secured a patent for a “System and method for auctioning geo-boxed flexible, semi-locked or locked radio pre-sets.” GM is the one who’d be doing the auctioning, and Damon says it could potentially “sell the individual buttons on your [car] stereo to third parties.” The geo-fencing angle would automatically switch individual pre-sets as you drive from one territory into another. As Lavrinc says, “it’s either a brilliant new revenue source, or something destined to piss people off. Probably both.” Put the GM idea together with a self-driving car of the future – and heck, what’s left for the driver to do? Note that companies obtain patents all the time for ideas that never see the light of day.
Bob Sillerman to buy back money-losing event promoter SFX for $774 million.
Onetime radio consolidator Robert F. X. Sillerman took dance- and festival promoter/consolidator SFX Entertainment public in October 2013 at $13 a share, and it’s literally never traded that high since then. Yesterday “SFXE” closed at $4.94, up 82 cents, or 19%, reacting to the buyout bid. Sillerman’s offering $5.25 apiece for the shares he doesn’t own, which is 62.6% of the float. He’d also shoulder $256 million in debt. The Wall Street Journal says that potentially the price could be higher, because there’s a 45-day “go-shop period,” to see if there’s a better offer out there. (That process could help tamp down any potential shareholder lawsuits.) If Sillerman’s offer is rejected, he’s entitled to a termination fee of $7.8 million. He says he’d vote his own shares in favor of an offer that’s 2.5% richer than his – a bit of consolation for suffering shareholders. SFX aggressively snapped up existing EDM (electronic dance music) events and lifestyle festivals, while touting corporate sponsorships (along with admission fees) as the avenue to profitability. Last year the company lost $131 million. One nice touch – CEO Sillerman paid himself exactly $1 for all of 2014. No bonus, no stock options, just a salary of $1.
Eastlan Ratings cracks its first PPM market (with an unwitting assist from Voltair).
The market is the North Carolina Triad (Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point), and Eastlan says Dick Broadcasting has become the first operator in a PPM market “to not renew with Nielsen and move to Eastlan.” Dick Broadcasting’s VP/GM Dick Harlow says “the meter was supposed to be the savior and all it’s done is increase our annual payments to Nielsen..and now we find out that to win in the PPM game, you need a magic black box to job the system.” No doubt Nielsen doesn’t see it that way, and the case around Voltair is still very much up in the air. Last week Voltair was the topic du jour for a meeting of the NAB’s COLRAM (Committee on Local Radio Audience Measurement), and Voltair creator 25-Seven (part of the Telos Alliance) was there to discuss it with industry leaders. But Dick Harlow’s impatient. He signs with Washington State-based Eastlan, led by Mike Gould. The ramifications are immediate – Dick Broadcasting’s “Rock 92.3” WKRR and CHR WKZL (107.5) won’t be listed in any PPM ratings released to the public. Those stations can’t use Nielsen numbers to sell and will start relying on Eastlan with a new Summer book that covers June 18-August 26. Eastlan promises about three times the sample size of the Nielsen meter panel and it employs telephone recall methodology.
Ex-Dial Global toppers Spencer Brown and David Landau return via “DGital Media.”
You pronounce it “Digital Media,” but the spelling of “D-G-i-t-a-l” is a conscious echo of their previous work together at Dial Global (“DG”). It’s now folded into Westwood One. You can almost hear the flip of the calendar pages as various non-competes with Cumulus-owned Westwood expire. DGital Media is co-founded by Brown and Landau, with venture capitalist and former Michael Rolnick in the role of Chairman. (Rolnick and Brown were fraternity brothers at the University of Michigan, proving once again that connections matter. One of Rolnick’s many recent roles was serving as Head of Digital/Chief Digital Officer for Dow Jones/News Corp.) Also joining DGital Media are Chris Corcoran, as Chief Content Officer, and Grace Carrick, Vice President for Sales & Strategy. You won’t be surprised to learn that Chris and Grace were also once associated with Brown and Landau at Dial Global, and that they form a mutual admiration society. This NOW Newsletter talked with Chris and with David yesterday, but not Spencer. He’d flown out to California on business –
DGital Media’s first project is with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher of Re/code.
There’s a sold-out “Code Conference” going on right now in at Rancho Palos Verdes, California, and that’s where Spencer Brown is. He’s rubbing elbows with execs from Google, Apple, GM, Target, Snapchat, Spring, Airbnb and CBS, and being in the room as Walt and Kara announce their new association with DGital Media. The deal’s done through RE/code parent Revere Digital, whose COO is Lia Lorenzano Kennett. She says “by partnering with DGital Media, Re/code will be able to leverage our authoritative content and brand with outstanding audio programming, distribution and monetization.” DGital is set up to offer all those functions, and its Chief Content Officer Chris Corcoran tells NOW that the initial product will be a weekly on-demand audio show featuring Re/code principal Kara Swisher. She’s famous for her interviews, and they’re “not just tech,” says Chris. Kara’s been a guest on The Kardashians and Silicon Valley TV shows. Could DGital Media expand out to terrestrial radio? Corcoran says “It’s not just streaming and downloads” but “really an audio engagement platform...there’s nothing off-limits.” For openers, the focus is on Kara’s “Re/code Decode” podcast, to launch in mid-June.
Meanwhile – Re/code is bought by Vox Media.
That won’t affect the plans Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher made with DGital Media, and should give everybody a taller podium. Swisher tells the New York Times that “everybody is bigger than us” in the dynamic space Re/code’s in, which is tech-business news and producing conferences. She says “It’s not a secret that being a smaller fish is really hard.” She and Mossberg bolted from Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones family in early 2014, and have built the company to 44 full-timers. The Times says they’re all expected to join Vox, which will have a vital interest in growing traffic to the site. That’s been an issue in the first year and a half. Now Re/code can be cross-promoted with sisters like tech site The Verge and the sports-obsessed SB Nation. comScore figures that in April, the various Vox Media sites logged 53.2 million unique visitors, while Re/code did about 1.5 million. No price announced in the deal between privately-held Vox Media and Re/code, whose L.A.-area conference continues through tomorrow. Re/code has upcoming conferences scheduled for New York on September 9 and 29, a “Code/Mobile” conference in October, and a Code Conference/Asia in Hong Kong in mid-November – all things Vox Media wants to share in.
The Charter purchase of Time Warner Cable is #4 buying #2.
And it’s not #1 – Comcast – trying to further bulk up with #2, as was the case with Comcast’s intended gobble-up of Time Warner Cable. That foundered as the FCC and DOJ kept eyeballing the combination, and (as you read here yesterday), the field was clear for John Malone-backed Charter to romance Time Warner Cable in a deal that looks significantly better for its shareholders. Ultimately, this is about the future of broadband, which is where a lot of Americans will be getting their radio, so this matters to broadcasters. John Malone-prodded Charter already had a pending deal to acquire Bright House for $10.4 billion, so this could be a master-stroke by cable industry godfather Malone. The schematic is what you saw yesterday – Charter would pay $195.71 for each share of TWC, comprised of $100 cash and $95.71 in Charter stock. There’s a significant breakup fee of $2 billion if the deal doesn’t close. The new company would be 44% owned by TWC shareholders, 24% by Charter, 19% by Malone’s Liberty, and 13% by Advance Newhouse. Charter’s already working on the next steps, with an L.A. Times story about Charter CEO Tom Rutledge vowing to finally get the L.A. Dodgers on his system ASAP, which should placate the fans. (Time Warner Cable owns the rights and carries the team, while Charter has resisted the fee.) And Katy Bachman of Katy on the Hill reports that Charter “may also have big plans for wireless,” urging the FCC to set aside more spectrum for smaller bidders in the early-2016 spectrum auction using turned-in TV facilities. FCC Chair Tom Wheeler takes a neutral tone about Charter-TWC – “We will look to see how American consumers would benefit if the deal were to be approved.” (Cue the lobbyists.)
Nissan’s “Ride of Your Life” campaign leaned hard on radio, enough to propel the Nissan Dealer Association from the 54th biggest user of national radio two weeks ago to #9 last week. Dealer groups are so-called Tier 2 players in the auto business, in between the individual dealer making a buy and the national brand itself. The Nissan Dealers ponied up to buy 20,312 national spots detected last week by Media Monitors, in one of the highest showings by an auto advertiser in quite a while. (With your competitors mostly absent from that space, at the higher levels of GRPs, meaning exposure, your brand can really shine in that environment.) Also gaining was another Tier 2 player, the Honda Dealer Association, which bought 12,211 spots to place at #18. Last week’s #1 advertiser was just who you’d expect, going into a holiday fix-it-up/barbeque-in-the-backyard weekend – Home Depot, which purchased a whopping 69,415 spots. While the Macy’s retail chain kicked it up several notches, running 35,934 spots to make the #2 spot.
EEO “Mid-term reports” are due at the FCC June 1, for the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia-West Virginia renewal group whose licenses expired on October 1, 2011. This is the four-year anniversary of their renewal filings, and they’re the first of a “rolling” series of renewal states required to file a mid-license term Form 397. There are exemptions for small staffs, and do check the “filing procedures” notice if you’re in one of the affected states - here.
130 “Radio Show Scholars” qualify for free registration to this Fall’s NAB/RAB Radio Show inn Atlanta. This is a first, and it’s made possible with support from (alphabetically), Alpha, Bonneville, Cherry Creek, Connoisseur, Emmis, Hubbard, iHeart, Katz Radio Group, Neuhoff Media, Nielsen Audio, Radiate Media, Salem, Times Shamrock, Triton Digital and Univision. To qualify, students must be a full-time junior, senior or grad student at a school that’s a member of the BEA (Broadcast Education Association). The RAB’s Erica Farber says “helping the industry attract new talent is critical to our future.” The NAB’s Gordon Smith says the Radio Show Student Scholars program is “a forward-looking approach to attracting young people to the radio business.” If you’ve ever stood at a Radio Show social event and noticed that (to be charitable) there was a lot of experience in the room – this could help change that. Know somebody who’d be a candidate? College students interested in attending the September 30-October 2 Radio Show in Atlanta can apply for free registration here.
Ralph Meador’s death deserves a followup, adding some biography to yesterday’s story here about his death at age 95. And it’s appropriate that it’s in this “Doing Business” section, because Ralph did a phenomenal amount of business around the radio industry. He was a radio engineer in Europe during World War II, helping build facilities in Paris, Frankfurt and Bremen. After he was mustered out, he worked in Joplin and Spokane, and by 1954 was a development engineer for Gates Radio (now GatesAir) in Quincy, Illinois. Soon he had patents issued for some designs and he’d put an AM and FM on the air in Lexington, Missouri. (The FM later moved into the Kansas City market.) He sold then-KLEX-AM/FM in 1970 and entered a new field – brokering the sale of radio stations. The National Association of Media Brokers passes along this history of Ralph, and its president Glenn Serafin adds that “Ralph was like the North Star, a fixed point of wisdom and integrity.” Broker Frank Kalil says “Ralph was truly a good person.” And Bill Whitley of Media Services Group says “there may have been a nicer guy on this planet, but I doubt it.”
The “Birthplace of Country Music” – not Nashville – to sign on its own Low Power FM this Summer. Folks in Bristol, Virginia contend that country music truly started around there, and they’ve had a Birthplace of Country Museum since last Fall. They succeeding in winning the construction permit for a new 64-watt LPFM at 103.5, and WJHL-TV says they’re running a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter. Tony Larson will oversee the launch and operation, and engineering-wise, they’re saluting Jim Gilmore and Tom King of Kintronic Labs, and the “generous donations of time and equipment and infrastructure from ERI-Electronics Research, Inc., [local commercial radio owner] Holston Valley Broadcasting, Nautel Limited, Telos Alliance and the William Mountjoy Estate.” WBCM-LP (for Birthplace of you-know-what) will originate from the museum and expects to feature “bluegrass, old-time, Americana, and country music.” More about the plans here.
CBS adds “lots more ’80s music” in St. Louis to adult contemporary KEZK (102.5). As expected, the station kept its basic format position with yesterday’s announcement, but drops the 4-1/2-year-old “Fresh 102.5” station name. It’s now simply “102.5 KEZK,” something listeners may not even notice. CBS hopes they will notice the “updated sound” and will approve of the revised talent roster. That’s Vic Porcelli (5-9am), Trish Gazall (9am-2pm), Greg Hewett (2-7pm) and the syndicated John Tesh for Sunday mornings, 6-9am. CBS is sticking with its promise of being “St. Louis’ Official At-Work Station.” The post-Fresh website is here.
A collaborative deal lets talk KWLZ move in to Portland, Oregon on a new frequency, while KXXO Olympia, Washington (96.1) obligingly waltzes out of the way. Keith Shipman-led Horizon Broadcasting will continue to own stations around Bend, Oregon, such as talk KBNW Bend (1110) and its companion translator at 100.1. But Horizon’s giving up 50% of its interest in talk KWLZ so it can achieve a greater destiny – moving smack-dab into Portland. It’s re-licensing from 96.5/Warm Springs, where it was a full Class C, to 96.3/West Linn, as a C3. That’s possible technically because David Rauh at 3 Cities is moving AC “Mixx 96.1” KXXO Olympia just slightly out of the way, making possible first-adjacent KWLZ at 96.3. In return, 3 Cities becomes the 50% owner of the newly-created “3 Horizons LLC.” (And its KXXO should achieve a better signal in its target, Seattle’s South Sound area.) There’s an $800,000 credit towards the capital account of seller Horizon. Checking the map, the move of KWLZ lifts it over the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and Mount Hood National Forest in a northwesterly direction, into the Rose City of Portland. Next question will be what format 3 Horizons chooses for KWLZ – stay tuned.
A Sioux Falls, South Dakota non-com will flip to commercial operation after Badlands Airtime buys it for $1.5 million cash. Pawnshop owner Charles Brennan of Badlands follows up his $1.5 million purchase of 80s-based KZOY Sioux Falls (1520) and a companion translator at 92.1 (March 12 NOW) by writing another check for the same amount. This one will be made payable to the University of Sioux Falls, which has been operating KCFS Sioux Falls (94.5) with a variety format. Actually, the students of the Media Services Department have been running it – and we’ll see if a protest arises from the campus, as we’ve seen at some other college-owned stations that were sold off. The University of Sioux Falls is “a Christian, Liberal Arts University affiliated with the American Baptist Churches, U.S.A.” KCFS is a Class A and buyer Badlands Airtime is already filing to convert it to commercial operation. Northpine adds some color about buyer Charles Brennan – he’s “planning to build Badlands Pawn, Gold & Jewelry and launch the Guns, Gold, & Rock N Roll Radio Network from the complex on Thanksgiving.”
Saga pays $45,000 for another “metro station” – FM translator – this time in Manchester, New Hampshire. CEO Ed Christian’s use of the term “metro station” for his separately-programmed translators seems to be catching on around the industry, and with 110 watts from the tower of Saga’s WZID Manchester (95.7), this translator should cover its metro just fine. Saga’s acquiring it from Clark Parrish of Edgewater Broadcasting. The FCC filing indicates that what’s now just a construction permit for W260CF at 99.9 will re-broadcast the HD2 signal of WZID.
Don Kollins – with a “K” – is the successful candidate in Entercom’s search for the next PD at San Francisco’s all-sports “95.7 the Game” KGMZ. Incumbent Jason Barrett blogged that he’d be leaving when his contract’s up in June, explaining that “my schedule every 2-3 weeks has consisted of flying on a plane to/from NY, renting a car and driving two hours upstate” to spend time with his son (February 11 NOW). His successor’s coming from almost that far away – Toronto. Don Kollins has programmed Rogers-owned “590 the Fan” CJCL since 2010. He starts at San Francisco’s “Game” on June 12.
David Murray and Ian Lurie will be exchanging notes in the corporate hallway of Canada’s Newcap group, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Murray’s been the Chief Operating Office of the Steele family-owned Newcap for the last eight years, but it says he’s retiring as of June 30. Taking his place is new recruit Ian Lurie, who put in 19 years with the Slaight family’s Standard Radio and six years at the former Astral Radio group. He’s most recently been a Senior VP with Bell Media, which acquired Astral in 2013. Ian will oversee all of Newcap’s broadcasting interests, from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia all the way west to British Columbia.
The missing transmitter - A NOW reader chuckles over yesterday's story about missing transmitter/other gear in Wisconsin, and says "I know a different story about a ‘Transmitter Missing In Action.’ One morning a news item made the papers about the theft of a radio station transmitter in the northeast. I later found out the facts, that the owner still owed money to the seller of the transmitter, and one night they simply drove up a truck and re-possessed it, like they would seize a car out of the driveway. It was like that movie ‘Repo Man.’ It was probably easier for the guy at the station, which was new and probably running on a shoestring, to claim theft than to admit what really happened.” Got your own stranger-than-fiction true story about radio? Email “You Can’t Make This Up” – Tom@RTK-Media.com.
Use the Classified section of this NOW Newsletter to reach candidates for your open job. This is a highly-engaged and passionate audience of readers, you know. They want to succeed in the business. Your contact for NOW Classifieds is Kristy Scott. Email Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. See you back first thing tomorrow - Tom