|D-Day for Nielsen?
Decision Day for Nielsen on PPM and Voltair.
Though they could simply offer an update, not a decision – that’s a possibility. You read here last Wednesday morning about Nielsen’s webinar titled “PPM Enhancements and Voltair testing update.” Today’s the day, and what Nielsen may finally do is to set some rules about Voltair and try calming the industry down. Note that the title of the 1pm Eastern time webinar lists “PPM Enhancements” ahead of “Voltair update.” Nielsen would rather not address the Telos Alliance/25-Seven audio processor at all. But with 700 of these black boxes shipped and some enthusiastic users, it can’t ignore the uproar. The hunch here is that the horse is out of the barn, and it’s too late to do what Canada did – order everybody to pull Voltair out of the audio chain pending further study. We told you that Nielsen recently discussed some punitive options with customers, but backed off. (Accusations of “rating distortion” thundering around the media world wouldn’t help anybody in day-to-day ad-selling. They also wouldn’t instill confidence in the PPM rating system.) Nielsen could also take legal action against the manufacturer of Voltair. But the best bet is that it will unveil a series of improvements in the detection part of the PPM system (those every-4.8-second tone bursts sent out by stations). And it will hope that agencies, advertisers and stations will just move along – “Nothing to see here,” as the police might say.
Cumulus cuts costs and jobs at syndicator Westwood, as its stock sinks near a six-year low.
As recently as December 2013, Cumulus stock was trading close to $8. Yesterday’s session low was $1.53 and the closing price was $1.72. That was down another 5% since the previous day, and it’s the lowest the “CMLS” stock has seen since October 2009, in the scariest year of the recession. The company’s largest outside backer is Crestview Capital Partners, which has warrants to buy more stock. But those warrants are way, way underwater at $4.34 a share. Yesterday’s reports of dozens of staff cuts at Westwood One won’t help. Format syndication’s in a tough spot because there are now alternatives that didn’t exist years ago. Westwood folded in Dial Global’s syndication assets in the second half of 2013 but the cost was steep - $260 million. The next time Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey faces investors will be on his July 30 second quarter conference call.
“24-hour formats will be hosted to a large degree by announcers from Cumulus radio stations.”
Cumulus/Westwood Senior VP/Content & Programming Mike McVay doesn’t address the number of layoffs at the Colorado, but aims to assure customers that “All 24-hour formats” at Westwood “will remain staffed and configured as they are today.” That’s using Westwood’s patented STORQ automation system and Cumulus’ own studio automation platform, OpX. Though some station managers are already expressing concern to this NOW Newsletter about losing familiar voices. McVay says “While many current Westwood One announcers will still be heard on weekday and weekend dayparts, the integration of our company into one programming platform has affected some WW1 announcers.” Mike says that taking “advantage of the complete talent pool in our company” is part of the four-year-integration process at Cumulus+Westwood. How about the laid-off talent? “All departing announcers will be eligible for vacancies at Cumulus radio stations.”
iHeart’s Bob Pittman and Rich Bressler lobby the FCC to protect the big AM signals.
They met with FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly’s legal advisor Amy Bender, says Radio World, and put across their twin messages - #1, it’s important to get Commission help to improve things on the AM band. But #2, don’t strip away protection for the big Class A signals to do it. iHeart, Cumulus and CBS own a bunch of those 50-kilowatt monsters, and they’ve got a vested interest in them. On the question of an FM translator window for AM stations, iHeart favors letting everybody participate. The ex parte summary of the meeting says that “All AM stations, irrespective of class, face challenges in providing a listenable signal…FM translators would allow AM stations to expand audience by reaching listeners who do not tune into the AM band due to signal quality or other issues.”
New CBS Radio boss Fernandez promotes Scott Herman to be his strong #2, as COO.
That position’s been vacant at CBS Radio, in the years when Dan Mason ran the group and Scott was Executive VP-Operations. Scott’s also been carrying the role of New York Market Manager since Don Bouloukos retired last year. Now he’s clearing his plate to be Chief Operating Officer of CBS Radio, and literally moving up to corporate. The CBS Radio New York cluster is downtown on Hudson Street, but Scott will now be based fulltime at CBS Radio offices in midtown. He’ll be succeeded as New York Market Manager by Marc Rayfield, a 25-year CBS’er who’s currently managing the CBS cluster in his native Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Business Journal says Marc won’t be a fulltime resident of the Big Apple – “He plans to keep the Main Line home he shares with his wife and two daughters while he commutes to Manhattan and rents an apartment there.” From now on, all the CBS market managers will report to Scott, and Scott reports to CBS Radio President Andre Fernandez. Andre replaced the retiring Dan Mason this Spring. Herman first joined the predecessor of CBS Radio, Group W, in 1978, at New York’s all-news “1010 WINS.” Don’t miss today’s “You Can’t Make This Up” feature for a story about Scott’s earlier days as a manager.
Michael Weiss leaves CBS Radio and the position of President of Sales no longer exists.
Some say Weiss never really meshed with the CBS radio culture. All President Andre Fernandez says to employees is that “Michael has decided to step down…to pursue other opportunities.” Andre credits Weiss with “expanding the Director of Sales role in our markets and forging new relationships with a number of new-to-radio advertisers.” Fernandez says Weiss also “played a significant role in developing our political business.” He’ll be “available to us as we transition to our new operating structure.” One of the key figures in that structure will be Bob Phillips, who is essentially Weiss’ replacement. But they won’t have equivalent titles, because Bob comes in as Senior VP/Director of Sales, and he’ll still be managing a market, Baltimore. Fernandez says “Bob has demonstrated his acumen as a leader and sales executive as Market Manager” in Baltimore. So unlike Marc Rayfield’s promotion in Philadelphia, Philips’ new role won’t require the naming of a new local market manager for Baltimore. (And is there an internal candidate for the top job in Philadelphia?) As for national sales leadership, corporate VP/Sales Sue McNamara exited in last week’s extensive wave of layoffs.
CBS President of Local Media Ezra Kucharz will now report to CBS Radio and TV division presidents.
That’s a change – at least in the beginning, Ezra’s believed to have been reporting up to CBS uber-boss Les Moonves. Now CBS Radio President Andre Fernandez says “Ezra will report to me and Peter Dunn, my colleague who runs the CBS Television Stations Group.” Another tweak in Kucharz’ role, says Andre – “Ezra will take on the additional responsibility for managing all digital sales across the two local businesses” of radio and TV. More from the Fernandez memo, which lays out his re-org – Chris Oliviero continues as EVP/Programming, “and will add oversight of research activities.” On the sales side, Rich Lobel “will continue to lead Altitude, our cross-platform sales solutions unit, as the group’s Executive VP and CMO.” Lobel becomes a direct report to Fernandez, who says “the team’s focus will remain on developing national sales opportunities for clients using CBS’ local media assets.” Current Senior VP/Finance Stacey Benson continues in her role, overseeing the financial operations of CBS Radio. While Jo Anne Haller (legal), Karen Mateo (communications) and Mark Zulli (H.R.) will “continue to lead our efforts” in those areas.
Emmis’ longtime nemesis Corre Partners may finally be giving up the fight over “zombie shares.”
It reveals to the SEC that is sold about 10% of its own preferred shares in Emmis earlier this month. That may signal that a leader of the “lock-up group” that took the company to federal court and then to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals won’t pursue further legal action. It alleged that Emmis violated Indiana state law when it bought up and then voted shares through an employee stock plan. Corre said that was a dirty trick by management, so it would have enough votes to reduce the rights of all preferred stockholders. It used the Wall Street term of “zombie shares,” for shares that had gone away, but were then revived. The recent appellate-court loss (July 6 NOW) may have persuaded it to give up the fight. But there’s nothing official, and zombies (and unhappy shareholders) can always come back to life.
Michael Savage tops former syndicator Talk Radio Network once again.
This time the syndicated talk personality wins at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. (That three-judge panel affirmed a lower-court judge appointed by President Obama, notes Savage.) Michael claims that the 2013 lower-court ruling compares with the baseball “free agency” victory won by player Curt Flood, and he says “after five long years and a fortune in my costs, justice has prevailed.” Savage sued TRN in late 2010, seeking to exit his contract, which he said contained “illegal and unenforceable provisions.” Michael wanted to join Cumulus-owned Westwood, which gave him a better timeslot (3-6pm Eastern) and has featured him on its talk stations. More from Savage at World News Daily here. TRN was appealing the judge’s verdict - which will cost it $862,455.
Second-quarter ad-spending on TV dropped 5%.
It’s actually worse than that for some broadcast stations and networks, based on new data from Standard Media Index, reported by Broadcasting & Cable. The broadcast networks were down an average 10% in Q2, while the cable nets were off just 3%. The individual month of June looked worse – broadcast down 16%, though B&C cautions against the “comps” (comparison) to last year’s World Cup in soccer. Who was gaining in second quarter? According to Standard Media Index, digital – up 14%, raising digital’s total share of the overall U.S. ad market by four points in June. YouTube and Hulu saw advertising grow more 40%, and social media sites were up nearly that much. No numbers reported for radio by Broadcasting & Cable – and it will probably be mid-August before the Radio Advertising Bureau releases first-half revenue numbers. We told you three months ago that the RAB was dropping its routine of publicizing quarterly numbers and would go with first-half and year-end results.
iHeart is part of the August 3 “Presidential Candidates Forum” from New Hampshire, thanks to a partnership between iHeart’s talk WGIR Manchester (610) and the New Hampshire Union Leader paper. WGIR morning personality Jack Heath has the pressure of moderating the forum. (Jack’s also heard on a regional network of stations.) Note that this is a “forum” and not a “debate,” with a chance for all declared GOP candidates to appear. iHeart says “nearly dozen have expressed their intention to attend.” C-SPAN’s broadcasting the event nationally, as is the iHeart app.
Art Bell’s back, following a Sunday night soft launch that one NOW Reader said was cut short by some local connectivity issues they’re working out for his “Midnight In The Desert” talk show. Last night was the formal launch of the show, which is built around an Internet radio model but is being picked up by a couple of short-wave stations and a growing corps of terrestrial stations. (22 and counting, says StreamGuys.) The show begins at midnight Eastern time – 9pm for Art in Pahrump, Nevada – and it’s carried on TuneIn. StreamGuys says it has been selected to do the content delivery network (CDN) business and live streaming/ad insertion. (And that network part of Sunday night’s soft-launch was fine, says the night-owl NOW reader.) Keith Rowland is Bell’s longtime webmaster and engineer, and now the owner of Dark Matter Digital Network. There’s a second show each night following Art on the same distribution channel, hosted by Richard C. Hoagland and called “The Other Side of Midnight.” In an interview with the RAIN newsletter, Art calls Internet-first radio shows “the wave of the future.” Read that here.
“Autonomous” is the new talk-site from several former hosts and execs at Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze.com. It all started (in a way) with Caitlin Jenner saying she was a Republican and a conservative, says Steve Krakauer. He’s the former VP of digital content at TheBlaze, and Capital New York says the Autonomous site “will focus on ‘American culture today, where we are headed, and where culture intersects with politics, media, technology, morality and political correctness.” Former Blaze talents Brian Sack, Raj Nair and LaVern Vivio are on board, along with former Blaze producer Chris Knowles. Capital New York says “they will be joined by GOP consultant James Richardson and former Fox News Producer Victor Garcia.”
Summertime’s prime-time for fast-food, which you can see in the pattern of national ad-buys detected by Media Monitors. Wendy’s (from #13 two weeks ago to #5 last week), McDonald’s (#4 to #6) and Subway (#10 to #9) all placed in the drive-through lane of the Media Monitors top ten. Buffalo Wild Wings (#16), Taco Bell (#21) also made the top 25. Home Depot (#2 to #1) and GEICO swapped places at the top, with the auto after-market category (#4 AutoZone, #8 O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, #11 NAPA) continuing to show strength.
The latest Spring-book Nielsen diary markets –
Honolulu – How about a 16.1-share, in the #63 market? That’s what you get when you’re iHeart and you change your strategy with AC KSSK-AM/FM and choose to simulcast them completely. They’d been mostly simulcast anyhow, and the FM had recently been in double digit territory, pulling an 11.1 share with age 12+ AQH share last Fall and an 8.6 in the Winter. But add in KSSK-AM (a 3.4 in the Winter book), and you blow everybody else away. So the now-simulcast KSSK-AM/FM has a 16.1 share in this new Spring book, nearly double that of SummitMedia’s AC “Krater 96” KRTR. It moves 6.2-6.3-8.4 for its best book since Spring 2011. . Third is Summit’s “Hawaiian 105” KINE, 8.0-7.8-7.4, and rising into fourth with its best share in four years is Ohana’s rhythmic AC “Rhythm of Hawaii” KUMU, 4.6-5.2-6.4. Fifth place belongs to iHeart’s Hawaiian/reggae “Island 98.5” KDNN, 4.9-6.2-6.2. It’s an off-book for Summit’s own Hawaiian station, “FM 100” KCCN, 4.2-3.4-3.0.
Fresno – The consecutive-win string reaches ten for iHeart’s rhythmic “B95” KBOS (7.6-8.3-8.3). Cumulus has the next three stations, beginning with hot AC “Y101” KWYE (6.2-5.2-5.4), then talk KMJ-AM/FM (7.3-6.2-5.3) and “Kiss Country” KSKS (4.9-4.4-4.9). Fifth is Lotus rhythmic “Q97” KSEQ (4.6-5.1-4.7). iHeart’s sixth-ranked AC KSOF has an off book, 5.2-4.4-3.9. Nice quarter for Univision’s regional Mexican “Que Onda” KOND (2.9-2.7-3.8). iHeart’s country “Wolf” KHGE improves to a three-year best, 2.5-2.5-3.5. Ostlund’s soft AC “K-Jewel” KJWL re-enters the book with a 1.8 share, and Fat Dawgs 7 (now with a connection to Ostlund) sees its all-sports KFIG re-enter the published standings with a 1.1.
Albuquerque – After losing an historic win-streak, Cumulus talker KKOB has embarked on a new one (6.9-7.0-5.7). Second place goes to steadily-improving AC sister “Magic” KMGA, up 2.6-3.5-3.3-5.0 since last Summer’s book. That’s its best topline since Winter 2011. Third place is a tie between iHeart hot AC “Peak” KPEK (3.9-4.1-4.4) and co-owned rock KZRR (4.2-3.6-4.4). Fifth is Univision’s rhythmic “Kiss 97.3” KKSS (5.2-4.1-4.0). Cumulus country KRST, now branded at “Nash 92.3,” is sixth, 4.1-3.5-3.9. iHeart’s rival country “Big I” KBQI slips back below a 3-share (2.7-3.5-2.8).
Allentown – Still just three subscribers in this market, and the top three stations are distributed among them. #1 with its largest share since Fall 1999 is iHeart’s top 40 “B104” WAEB-FM (10.8-10.7-13.4). Second is Connoisseur classic rock “Hawk” WODE (8.7-9.9-9.9) and third is Cumulus country “Cat” WCTO (10.5-10.3-9.5). AC sister WLEV finishes fourth (7.6-6.3-6.4) and iHeart rocker WZZO is fifth (5.5-5.4-6.2). iHeart’s talk WAEB is next, 4.1-4.2-4.1.
Knoxville – Cumulus WIVK (16.9-17.1-13.9) is showing the effects of increased country competition, from the likes of Scripps “Q100” WCYQ (5.3-3.4-5.0), Midwest’s new classic-country “95.7 Duke FM” WDKW (the former rock WVRX, now moving 1.7-3.3-2.7), and M&M’s country “Merle” WMYL (1.4-1.5-2.3). Still, the WIVK win is its 128th consecutive blue ribbon, extending the nation’s longest streak. But the 13.9 is its smallest since Winter 2013. Heading back toward the top of the standings, #2 is Midwest’s classic rock WIMZ (7.8-7.9-9.0), third is Scripps-owned top 40 “Star” WWST (7.9-9.1-8.5) and fourth is Midwest’s AC “B97.5” WJXB (8.3-7.4-8.0).
McAllen-Brownsville ushers us into the world of two-book-a-year Nielsen markets. It’s high on the metro rankings at #56 (higher than all of today’s continuous measurement markets like Honolulu and Fresno). But the subscribers here are happy enough seeing and paying for just Spring and Fall books. #1 is iHeart’s top 40 “Wild 104” KBFM, moving from a Spring 2014 9.6 share to a Fall 8.8 and now a Spring-2015 10.2. Co-owned country KTEX drops back to second (9.4-10.2-8.9) and Univision’s regional Mexican KGTB-FM is third (9.0-8.4-7.5). Entravision’s top 40 “Mix” KVLY hangs onto fourth place, 6.4-7.4-6.6. Flores-run regional Mexican XHRR retains fifth place (3.7-5.9-6.0).
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – Some turnover, as Entercom’s country “Froggy” WGGY (7.2-6.9-7.8) slips past Cumulus AC “Magic 93” WMGS (8.9-9.1-7.2) as the #2 station. That still leaves Entercom top 40 WKRZ (10.3-9.7-10.3) in first place for the eighth straight book, followed by Froggy and Magic. In fourth place is Shamrock’s classic rock WEZX (5.8-6.3-5.4). Entercom’s regional talk format based at WILK is fifth, 6.8-5.4-5.2. The “Fuzz” is sixth, which is to say Shamrock’s alternative “Fuzz 92.1” and its translators (2.8-1.0-3.9). Bold Gold’s AC “River” WWRR is back, 3.0-2.1-3.0.
Ft. Myers-Naples – Renda’s “Gator Country” WWGR takes the lead from Beasley in George Beasley’s backyard, going 5.7-5.7-6.6. That’s the biggest 12+ share for the Gator since the Fall book of 2004. Second is Sun-owned “Fox News 92.3” WFSX, doing talk (6.4-6.4-6.1), and third is Beasley’s AC “Sunny” WJPT (3.5-6.5-5.9). A Beasley station is also fourth, and that’s top 40 “B103.9” WXKB (5.2-4.2-4.0). Fifth is Sun’s classic rock “Arrow” WARO, 4.6-5.0-4.7.
Honolulu’s brokered-Chinese KUPA/1370 sells to the growing ethnic broadcaster that’s been LMA’ing it. That’s Beach Time Broadcast, which is 80% Universal Broadcast LLC (James Su) and 20% AIM Broadcasting (Bay Area-based John and Greg Douglas). The buyer’s recent monthly LMA payments of $8,194 have been accumulating and are counted against the ultimate price of $320,000. KUPA has 6,200 watts fulltime at 1370, and its seller is Salt Lake-based Broadcasting Corporation of America. Mr. Su and the father-and-son Douglases were involved in the $2.26 million purchase of Las Vegas-market Chinese-language KADD Logandale, Nevada/93.5, and various members of Beach Time either own stations or broker time on stations in California, Texas, Oregon, Utah, Massachusetts (Boston’s WILD/1090), Pennsylvania, the DC market, the Atlanta market and L.A. (where EDI Media brokers the HD2 channel of Emmis’ urban “Power 106” KPWR.)
Bill Shirk is probably radio’s only escapologist/station owner, and he continues his retirement selloff with the $25,000 sale of a translator CP (construction permit) in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Doubt his bona fides as an escapologist and master of tricks? He lists his email on the FCC application as Houdin96@aol.com. That’s probably a reference to Indy’s rhythmic “Hot 96.3” WHHH, which Shirk (William Shirk Poorman) sold to Radio One for many millions of dollars. This deal in Crawfordsville is for a future translator at 92.1 to be used by CVL’s “Cool Oldies 1550” WCVL Crawfordsville. It’s running 250 watts daytime and just five watts at night. The translator (W221CS) will help, and there’s a just-filed application to upgrade it from 55 watts to 250 watts. Brokers – Roehling Broadcast Services for seller Bill Shirk, and Louisville-based Henson Media for buyer CVL.
Lansing-market KTGG/1540 and its FM translator sell for $230,000, in a deal between two Michigan-based Christian entities. And if you’re thinking that “KTGG” is an unusual set of call letters for the Lansing market, where everything else begins with a “W,” you’re right. It’s unusual. Daytimer KTGG Spring Arbor currently runs 450 watts daytime and 185 watts in the critical hours after sunrise and before the sun slips over the horizon. But it’s holding a construction permit to change city of license to Okemos, Michigan, with 400 watts daytime and 219 watts critical hours Seller is Spring Arbor University, whose other interests include contemporary Christian WJKN-FM (89.3) and WSAE (106.9) in Spring Arbor, plus translators in Battle Creek, Kalamazoo and eight other towns. Buyer West Central Michigan Media Ministries has five other Michigan stations, like WIHC Newberry (97.9) plus three translators that use the “Strong Tower Radio” Christian teaching format. Broker for seller Spring Arbor U. – Jon Yinger.
“Last week, 32 million Americans listened to a podcast, more than subscribe to SiriusXM,” says Steve Goldstein of Amplifi Media. He’s produced a new infographic about podcasting, the field that the former head of Saga programming is now exploring with his new business. He says that for Americans who do use podcasting, they’re averaging six shows a week. Steve believes that “Just as the DVR, Netflix and YouTube are altering video consumption, on-demand audio is profoundly altering consumption patterns (demographically) and opening up a new world of content.” See his intro and the infographic here.
Watch Garrison Keillor on video, discussing his increasingly-firmed-up plans to retire next year from regular hosting duties on APM-distributed “A Prairie Home Companion.” As you’re watching, imagine the anxiety felt by a lot of public radio PDs, GMs and underwriting specialists, as Garrison discusses the franchise’s future with the AP, here. The June 30 NOW had the story about Garrison telling the Berkshire, Massachusetts Eagles of his plans to hand over hosting duties to Nickel Creek musician Chris Thile. The 72-year-old Keillor says “I'm eager to stay home and read books. But I'll do whatever needs to be done to assure an easy transition - sing, dance, do 'Guy Noir,' talk about my hometown of Lake Wobegon.” But can a ham like Keillor really stay away from the radio stage?
Ross Perot Jr.’s Petrus Holding explains more about why it’s backing Connoisseur, in a story from the Dallas Business Journal. Steve Blasnik at Perot’s Petrus Holding says “Radio is an important and enduring media, but it’s very out-of-favor in financial markets...the large radio companies were formed by large acquisitions with lots of leverage, prior to 2008. So most are over-leveraged and not in a position to exploit opportunities.” But to Petrus, “this is a good time to build a business,” with Jeff Warshaw at Connoisseur. More from the Business Journal here.
Having Scott Herman as a boss - NOW reader Christopher Michael was a news anchor at then-Group W-owned all-news WMAQ Chicago (670) in the 1980s, working for Scott Herman. Christopher says "Scott was probably the best program director I ever worked for," and here's why - “WMAQ was the home of the White Sox. One summer evening the Sox battery was Charlie Hough on the mound, Carlton Fisk behind the plate. That guaranteed a 3-1/2 hour game, because Hough was the slowest knuckleball pitcher in baseball, and Fisk had to stand up after every pitch because of his knees. And the game went 10 innings. Derek Hill and I were the anchors waiting for the game to be over. We wrote our scripts, and in the bottom of the 10th the Sox made a dramatic comeback and won. But Derek and I were so excited that we forgot to adlib the change. The next day was the station picnic. When Scott arrived, he called Derek and I over to his car. He asked about the game, and we were effusive about the win. Then Scott asked, 'Then why did you guys say they lost?' We were dumbfounded. He reached into his car and pulled out our headline pages. He had been listening, heard our errors, and waited until we got to a neutral ground. After almost simultaneous 'Oh, my goshes,' Scott just said 'Be a little more careful.' Then we went on to have a great picnic. Attention managers - this is the way to keep a team behind you, not resenting you.” These days, Christopher Michael is president of Chicago-based syndicator Sound Targeting Inc., which produces “60 Second Checkup." Got your own story of a good (or not-so-helpful) early boss? Email “You Can’t Make This Up” – Tom@RTK-Media.com.
Use this NOW Newsletter to reach your target audience, if you’re a vendor or service supplier whose target is radio, and the people who run it. This is a highly-engaged and passionate audience that’s hungry for new ideas and new ways to make money. They’re an interested audience. Your contact is our Kristy Scott. She’s at Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. See you back first thing tomorrow with more about Nielsen, the PPM and Voltair - Tom