|The Post-Lew Dickey Cumulus
The future of Cumulus dominated the conversation at the Atlanta Radio Show.
There was also talk about the company’s past, and the torrent of negative comments and stories on social media. With CEO Lew Dickey and EVP John Dickey gone, the lid is off and there’s plenty of pent-up frustration of the “ding-dong/witch” variety. But it’s the future that Cumulus – and the entire industry – should be worried about. Last week’s NOW Newsletter noted the history of new CEO Mary Berner, who led Reader’s Digest through a wrenching Chapter 11 process. But as we also said, Cumulus may not have to endure bankruptcy reorganization. The New York Post says non-executive Chair Jeff Marcus “has been telling industry insiders” that Chapter 11 is not where he’s headed. Re-structuring – and stronger operational results – might do it. If they could repair some important problem stations and turn in a couple of decent quarters, that would go a long way. At least one Wall Streeter tells NOW that his spreadsheet has Cumulus throwing off enough cash for the next several years to avoid covenant problems. Fixing the place would also give Crestview a shot at keeping its equity investment. Berner inherits some notable station assets, and some strong managers (many of them hired just recently by Lew). Who and what will she keep? And will Wall Street give her the time she needs?
New Cumulus CEO Mary Berner to be closer to the ad community – literally.
As one Radio Show attendee said, “Sure, Mary Berner’s not from the radio business, but if you’re a magazine publisher, you’re in sales.” Sales is one of Cumulus Media’s pressing needs. And New York City is where so much of America’s advertising sales happens – not Atlanta, where the Dickeys founded and ran Cumulus. If the company becomes less Atlanta-centric, and if Berner continues her concentration on advertisers, that’s potentially a positive for the sales effort. One NOW reader points that that Berner’s search for space could start at 2 Penn Plaza, the home of talk WABC/770, hot AC WPLJ/95.5 and urban AC WNBM/103.9. Also, Westwood One has office space in the Candler Tower on West 42nd and a couple of other locations in the area. Berner has some options, though she’s reportedly said she doesn’t want to displace anybody. Another change to report – Cumulus has retained the Kekst and Company PR firm, apparently to address Wall Street concerns connected to the new face in the CEO suite and the exit of the Dickeys.
iHeart is sued in a third state over streaming pre-1972 music – this time in a RICO suit.
Georgia joins California and New York as states where Arthur and Barbara Sheridan are pursuing iHeart over its Internet (not over-the-air) use of recordings they own. Those include tunes by the Flamingos, the Moonglows, and Blues Hall of Fame/Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Little Walter. The just-filed suit says “iHeart is transferring and streaming [the songs] daily to its Georgia listeners, and has been doing so for years.” A loophole in the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act left out tracks recorded before February 15, 1972, and that’s given employment to attorneys defending SiriusXM, Pandora, CBS, Cumulus and iHeart at the state level. In this case, the Sheridans’ legal team is suing under Georgia’s RICO statue – originally designed to fight racketeering and corrupt organizations.
FCC Commissioner Clyburn backs the “window-lite” approach for FM translators.
Mignon Clyburn was the one who originally proposed a dedicated AM filing window, at the 2013 Radio Show in Orlando – but now she says the quickest way to help the largest number of AM stations is to loosen up the minor-change rule for moving translators. That’s the so-called window-lite approach that FCC Audio Division Chief Peter Doyle seemed to lean toward, at last Thursday’s Radio Show appearance. His staff ran the models and found that permitting relocations of translators up to 250 miles would “vastly increase” the supply of translators for AM stations. Commissioner Clyburn’s not against the dedicated filing window, but uses the old phrase about “the perfect being the enemy of the good.” In other words, the best way to help out AM stations – particularly the smaller Class C and D signals – would be to let them find a translator and file to move it as a minor-change. Clyburn says “after that initial window, we could extend the waiver window to Class A and B” stations in the AM band, the bigger ones. Clyburn’s statement is unusual, because (as her colleague Michael O’Rielly pointed out at the Radio Show) Commissioners don’t usually talk about proposals “on circulation.” That means they’ve been circulated by the Chairman to individual commissioners for comments and approvals. But Clyburn’s sticking her head up on this one, and it may be an important turning point. Read her statement (including her dismay about “the tone and substance of the discussions surrounding the AM revitalization window item”) here.
NAB prefers both a window-lite plan (for AM+translators) and a dedicated filing window.
The association aligns itself with NABOB (National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters) and MMTC (Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council) on this one. It says “the AM-only window [reserved for AM’s to apply for a translator] is the only way to ensure that small, rural and minority stations do not get left behind.” The NAB wants both the window and the 250-mile waiver “window-lite” solutions. Meanwhile, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai continues to beat the drums for a window – “Commissioners will now have to decide with whom they stand. Will they stand with AM broadcasters across the country? Will they stand with 50 CEOs of minority-owned AM radio licensees?”
Next up for the FCC – foreign ownership for radio and other licensees.
It’s the followup to the Commission’s tortuous two-year path to a decision that finally let Pandora buy an FM in South Dakota. ASCAP fought the purchase of Rapid City-market top 40 “Hits 102.7” KXMZ Box Elder, fearing (correctly) that Pandora would try to use its ownership of a terrestrial station to lower its music licensing fees for streaming. The key ASCAP argument was that since Pandora’s a publicly-held company, the FCC couldn’t be sure it didn’t have more than the maximum of 25% foreign ownership. The agency’s been proceeding on such requests on a case-by-case basis. Now it announces this item for the October 22 Open Meeting – “The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would streamline the foreign ownership review process for broadcast licensees and applicants, and standardize the review process for broadcast, common carrier and aeronautical licensees and applicants.”
Launching today on SiriusXM, “Fox News Headlines 24/7” hires Jared Max.
Jared’s done sports in New York for CBS Radio’s all-news WCBS/880 and “Fan” WFAN/660, for ESPN-managed “ESPN 98.7” WEPN-FM, and for Bloomberg Radio. Today he’ll be behind the mic on launch-day for a new headline-news service that satellite radio boss Jim Meyer has compared to another New York all-newser – get-the-headlines-fast “1010 WINS.” Jim told the recent Goldman Sachs Communacopia confab that “Our listeners like news [but] they don’t listen to it for 60 minutes…they want relevant, current quick news.” He says Fox News Headlines 24/7 is “the first one in the country exclusive to satellite radio” and he’s “really excited about it.” Fox supplies other programming to SiriusXM, but this is new ground.
Latest Nielsen Return-on-Investment study shows 17-to-1 payoff for department stores.
Nielsen builds on its 2014 Nielsen Catalina research, showing a 6-to-1 return for consumer packaged goods, and then last year one demonstrating a 14-to-1 benefit for a wireless company – $14 in revenue for every $1 invested in radio advertising. Now for the NAB/RAB Radio Show, Nielsen has an ROAS (Radio Return-on-Ad-Spend) paper for several large department stores, and the ratio is 17-to-1. As Katz Radio Group puts it, “Nielsen’s findings have given the radio industry its best ROAS result yet, a $17 return for every radio dollar spent.” The study looked at the number of shoppers in the store and how much they spend. It says “overall, radio generated a 10% increase in sales for the measured department stores.” That’s not just a supposition, but “incremental revenue attributed specifically to the retailers’ radio investment above sales influence by other marketing activity.” From that, Nielsen “calculated a $17 return on advertising spend.” That’s great stuff for sellers, but one of the themes heard at the Radio Show was radio’s relatively low visibility at the big meetings of the 4As and ANA (Association of National Advertisers). Bob Pittman of iHeart knows it’s important to be there and his folks are there, along with a few other radio folks and of course the RAB. Several folks tell NOW that “Not enough radio people are there,” representing radio in competition with TV, print and other media. There’s a story to tell, from Nielsen and others, but it needs to be continually told. In this latest 17-to-1 study of retailers, Nielsen used radio station logs from Media Monitors and ad-cost estimates from SQAD.
Townsquare pays down $20 million in debt, as a “voluntary repayment under its senior secured credit facility.” Connecticut-based small- and medium-market specialist Townsquare Media tells the SEC that after writing the $20 million check, it’s down below $300 million in debt, at $298.5 million in term loans. Read the brief SEC filing here.
NBA Milwaukee Bucks considered “a strong pitch” from Entercom, but renew with Scripps-owned news/talk WTMJ/620. So says the Milwaukee Business Journal, providing some context for the multi-year renewal announced Friday morning on the air by the team and ’TMJ. Entercom has Milwaukee’s all-sports WSSP/1250 and its translator companion at 105.7, but they didn’t get the Bucks. The business paper says “In recent years, years, the Bucks have paid” to buy time on WTMJ for the games. Market manager Tom Langmyer says “I don’t release details, but it’s structured a bit differently in some ways.” The Bucks employ play-by-play voice Ted Davis, who’s entering his 19th season in that role. Langmyer tells his staff that “in addition to the game broadcasts, our enhanced relationship will include more joint content initiatives” – and the new deal “also takes us into the new Bucks arena” to be built downtown.
ESPN Radio’s new “Russillo & Kanell” midday show to simulcast on ESPNNews cable from 1-4pm Eastern time – and that certainly undercuts the “news” mission of the channel’s identity. But ESPN’s been pretty fluid in its deployment of shows across various cable channels. Ryen Russillo and Danny Kanell have been a team on the radio only since August 31, and the powers-that-be want them for the three-hour early afternoon slot. They’re also available on the ESPN app, SiriusXM, Apple iTunes, Slacker and TuneIn.
Westwood One renews its contract to use Nielsen BDSradio measurement for both its 24/7 syndicated formats and Cumulus stations that use its content. Nielsen says BDSradio processes more than seven billion streams a week, “and over 500,000 music detections every day from more than 1,900 stations, networks and video channels” in North America and Mexico. Charles Steinhauer is the COO of Westwood COO and Erin Crawford is GM of Music at Nielsen.
More September-book Nielsen PPMs -
Las Vegas – #1 is the usual Vegas winner, iHeart’s AC “Sunny” KSNE (9.2-9.6-9.4, going from the July book to this new September book with age 6+ AQH share). But we’re looking at a tie for second place, between Beasley’s classic hits KKLZ (6.3-7.2-6.8) and CBS Radio’s top 40 KLUC (5.9-5.4-6.8). Fourth is CBS hot AC “Mix” KMXB (5.8-4.9-5.6) and fifth is Beasley’s rhythmic oldies “Old School” KOAS (4.4-4.8-5.4). It appears that the CBS Labor Day weekend maneuver in breaking up the KXNT-AM/FM news/talk simulcast didn’t quite get tracked in Nielsen. The FM is now rhythmic AC “KXQQ,” which is listed in the book but its numbers aren't released to the public. There’s no listing for KXNT-AM, which carries on with news/talk. Adult contemporary “Sunny 106.5” owns the lead in average weekly cume, with 590,200 out of the metro’s estimated 1,733,000 Nevadans. All shares in this PPM section are age 6+ AQH for Nielsen’s total broadcast week. The “September” PPM was in the field from August 13 to September 9.
Cleveland – Classic hits “Majic” WMJI (11.7-11.5-11.9) not only achieves the largest share in station history, but (per ratings historian Chris Huff) “the largest non-holiday share for any Cleveland station in the PPM era.” Majic’s owned by iHeart. Second is Radio One’s urban AC WZAK (7.5-7.5-8.4), followed by CBS AC “Star 102” WDOK (6.5-7.5-7.4) and iHeart’s soft-looking country WGAR (8.9-8.8-7.3). Fifth is iHeart’s “We play anything” variety hits “106.5 the Lake” WHLK (8.2-7.0-7.2). The leading talk-based station is iHeart’s #6-ranked talk WTAM (6.6-6.3-6.6). Classic hits Majic also cleans up in the cume column at 669,400 in an average week.
Orlando – “Rumba” is #1, as it has been since the March book. iHeart’s Spanish tropical Rumba 100.3 WRUM is up, 7.1-6.8-7.4. Rising to second is sister AC “Magic” WMGF (5.8-5.2-6.6) and third is yet another iHeart station, top 40 “XL106.7” WXXL (5.8-5.2-6.6). Fourth place this month goes to CBS Radio’s classic hits “Sunny” WOCL (6.0-6.4-6.3) and close behind is Cox urban AC “Star” WCFB (5.5-5.4-6.2). Central Florida’s country matchup is Cox’s eighth-place “K92.3” WWKA (6.0-6.0-5.4) versus JVC’s “Wolf” WOTW (1.4-1.6-1.1). “Magic 107.1,” the big AC, cumes an average of 531,600 folks a week for the cume lead.
Kansas City – Returning to #1 (as it was in the Spring) is Royals baseball flagship “Sports 610.” Entercom’s KCSP moves 6.1-7.0-6.6, ahead of everybody else, including Carter’s second-place urban KPRS (5.3-5.3-6.3). Cumulus classic rock “Fox” KCFX runs third (7.8-7.5-6.1). Fourth place is a tie between Steel City’s top 40 “Mix” KMXV (6.0-6.6-5.7) and Entercom’s hot AC “Point” KZPT (6.0-5.9-5.7). Close behind that pack is Entercom’s “98.9 the Rock” KQRC (4.8-5.0-5.5). The lead in the country fight is grabbed for the first time by Steel City’s “Q104.3” KBEQ (3.1-3.6-4.9). It’s ahead of Entercom’s WDAF (3.6-4.4-4.5) and Steel City’s KFKF (4.8-3.6-3.9). The leading talk-based station – at least not one that’s 24/7 sports - is University of Missouri-KC non-com news/talk KCUR (4.5-4.1-4.3). Hot AC “Point” leads the cume standings at 498,200.
Austin – “Bob” still wins the popular vote, but “Kiss” is slipping. Emmis-managed variety hits “Bob” KBPA wins again, 7.6-8.9-7.9, but iHeart’s top 40 “Kiss” KHFI slips down to sixth place (6.6-6.0-5.0). That appears to be a cume issue for Kiss. Back up at the top, iHeart’s two country stations trade places, with KASE #2 (5.7-6.0-6.0) and KVET-FM #3 (6.4-6.1-5.4). Fourth is another iHeart property, rhythmic KPEZ (5.5-5.3-5.3). Could be the start of another uptick for Crista Ministries’ contemporary Christian KFMK (4.1-3.8-4.3). Bob is not only #1 in AQH share but also in weekly cume (511,900).
Columbus – iHeart has an iron grip on the top three spots. #1 is country WCOL (12.9-11.5-10.8), followed by CHR WNCI (9.8-9.4-9.6) and talk WTVN (8.0-8.0-7.9). Fourth again is Saga’s AC “Sunny 95” WSNY (7.3-7.9-6.9). Fifth place goes to one of the flagships of Ohio State Buckeyes football – RadiOhio’s all-sports WBNS-FM (3.6-4.1-4.9). Top 40 WNCI leads in Columbus cume at 580,300.
Atlanta is where iHeart has a friendly leasing deal with translator owner Immanuel Broadcasting Network, and iHeart just changed formats on a 99-watt signal at 92.3. What had been Spanish sports “Deportes 92.3” is now Spanish contemporary “Mia.” Radio Insight reports the Friday morning flip, and says it “creates a Spanish music combo with south-suburban regional Mexican ‘105.3 El Patron’ WBZY Bowdon.” iHeart’s feeding the Immanuel-owned translator from the HD3 signal of its WWPW/96.1.
Now that iHeart has shifted the frequency of an Orlando-area translator from 97.1 to 96.9, it’s got the signal re-broadcasting its all-sports “740 the Game” WYGM. The former W246BO Deltona at 97.1 is becoming W245CL at 96.9, and that’s what’s how they’re re-imaging the station, as “96.9 the Game.” Radio Insight says the Game “is one of five sports stations in the market, and the second to add an FM translator.” It’s local from 6am to noon and 3p-6pm, and plugs in Fox Sports Radio for other dayparts.
Happy 90th birthday to the WSM Nashville-based Grand Ole Opry, which observed its birthday over the weekend with star turns by Carrie Underwood, Little Big Town and the Oak Ridge Boys. The country performers and fans who crowded the original 1920s shows at WSM/650 made the more proper Nashvilleans uncomfortable (they were too hillbilly). By 1943 the show alighted at the downtown Ryman Auditorium. It now originates from the Opryland complex, and the Tennessean says last weekend’s all-day outdoor “plaza party” at Opryland featured cast members of ABC-TV’s “Nashville.” Read the Tennessean's coverage here.
Waco’s rhythmic “Hot 104.9” KBHT is now urban AC, thanks to what consultant Jason Kidd of New Generation Radio terms an evolution. The flip to “Magic 104.9, Today’s R&B and Classic Soul” occurred at 3pm Friday, announced by the Dazz Band’s “Let It Whip.” KBHT is a Class A licensed to Bellmead, Texas, and Gary Moss of M&M Broadcasters keeps it busy, feeding a different format to at least one translator with an HD Radio multicast signal.
There’s a $735,000 cash deal in the upper Midwest involving Neil Lipetzky, Duane Butt and veteran owner/operator Dean Sorenson. Dean’s helped a number of folks find their footing in radio and he’s a 30% partner in Dakota Broadcasting, the parent of Community First Broadcasting. That’s the entity that files to buy an AM/FM combo in Jackson, Minnesota and the construction permit for K249EO, a new 250-watt translator at 97.7 licensed to Spirit Lake, Iowa. The Jackson stations are “Country 1190” KKOJ, a 5,000-watt daytimer, and classic hits KRAQ, a C3 at 105.7. Community First just began an LMA for KKOJ/KRAQ, paying seller Kleven Broadcasting a fee of $1,000 a month until the closing.
One of the two 50-50 partners in Fresno-market “Radio Punjab” KIGS/620 is buying out the other one’s interest in New Media Broadcasting. It’s a stock transaction worth $400,000 in cash. KIGS is a thousand-watt full-timer at 620 doing a south Asian format, and full control will be assumed by Charanjit Singh Batth. He’s acquiring the other 50 shares of New Media stock from Harinder Singh.
Draw a line southwest of St. Louis, and you’ll see Leadwood, Missouri (where an FM’s being sold for $250,000) and Ellington. Looks like buyer Fred Dockins has his name suggested by the call letters of the Ellington station, KDKN. Since December 2014, “106.7 the Zone” KDKN has been simulcasting with Jackman Holding Company’s station up in Leadwood, known as “107.1 the Zone.” KLMZ is a Class A, and the $250,000 purchase price breaks down to $5,000 cash at closing, 12 monthly payments of $3,000, and a final balloon payment of $209,000.
Steve Harris enjoyed an especially wide-ranging programming career in both urban radio and sports, and now he’s died following a stroke. Harris was a VP of Urban Programming for ABC Radio Networks from 1993-2000, then was part of the early programming squad at Lee Abrams’ D.C.-based XM Satellite Radio, as VP of External Programming and then VP of Music. Harris returned to ABC as VP of Multicultural Programming, then went to Dallas-Reach Media as VP/Operations. His next stop was at ESPN Radio from 2008-2010. Harris had most recently programmed for Radio One in Cincinnati. His LinkedIn Page is here.
Jim Watkins retires after 16 years with Talk Radio Network, as National Affiliate and Marketing Director. He thanks Mark Masters for the opportunity there and salutes the talent he’s worked with over the years, such as Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham (both now gone), Jerry Doyle and more. Watkins has also worked with Sun Broadcast Group and Peters Productions, and he programmed in several markets. Jim returns to the talent side, hosting a new morning show on Genesis-owned talker WWBA/820 in the Tampa market, near where he lives. Jim’s at JWatkins00@comcast.net at 239-772-4791.
“Big Tom” Parker has passed at 64, having helped “shape the sound that became known as adult contemporary,” says consultant Walter Sabo. Parker worked on the west coast at stations like KFRC and KYUU San Francisco, and he eventually transitioned to talk radio in Portland, Oregon. At the end, Parker suffered liver and kidney failure, plus internal bleeding. His onetime San Francisco manager John Hayes tells NOW that “Tom’s generous spirit, sense of humor and ability to connect with people made him someone you just wanted to be around.”
Wiping out the computer – Christopher Michael of Chicago-based syndicator Sound Targeting Inc. says “In 1975 I was at a very small AM/FM in Zion, Illinois. It had one of the first combo automation systems from IGM. It worked wonderfully, including having a ‘time tape’ where someone recorded every minute of the day, and the system would insert the time on occasion. We were live in the morning show, and again at noon when I did a half-hour newscast. After that, the board-op/announcer would go into the automation room, type something into the terminal, and the system would begin playing the music. One day, he made an error in his typing, and in frustration typed in something along the lines of ‘Forget Computer.’ When he hit enter, the machines all went ‘click-click-click’ and stopped running. It had forgotten all of its programming. He rushed to the emergency drawer where there was a perforated paper tape to run. But it was so old that it disintegrated, throwing little shards of paper all over the room. It took three days to get a new tape from IGM. In the meantime, we played records all day, many of which we had to bring from home.” Remind you of your own unforgettable true radio story? Write it up and email “You Can’t Make This Up” – Tom@RTK-Media.com.
Where does radio go after the Radio Show? Follow it day-by-day, as Nielsen responds to Voltair (or doesn’t), and as Orban presses its case that Nielsen should do something about Voltair’s audio processing. That was last Friday’s lead story here in the Tom Taylor NOW newsletter. There’s also the appetite that AM stations have for translator licenses, and very soon, third quarter operating results from radio operators. (Emmis reports Thursday morning.) . If you want to reach our highly-engaged readership with your company’s marketing message, contact Kristy Scott. She’s back from the Atlanta Radio Show and reachable at Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. See you back first thing tomorrow - Tom