|Radio darkness in the Sunshine State
34 full-power stations in Florida are now dark.
That’s not counting about a dozen translators and who-knows-how many Low Power FMs. Some of these are major-market, big-group-owned stations, too, like Entercom’s Miami-market sports “790 the Ticket” WAXY. One veteran South Florida NOW Reader isn’t surprised that iHeart’s talk WIOD/610 is on the FCC outage list (“WIOD is virtually in Biscayne Bay”). But he says “WINZ/940 is on high ground, for that area” – and that’s why the Miami Herald says iHeart has temporarily moved the WIOD programming to 940, bumping WINZ’s sports fare. There may be some serious re-thinking about how and where to re-build, after Hurricane Irma. But for now, iHeart’s request for Special Temporary Authorization for WIOD seeks permission to run at 25% power non-directional “from either of the two array elements of the directional array.” And up the Atlantic coast in Charleston, South Carolina, Blessed Sacrament Catholic School could use some divine intervention for its Low Power FM WMHE-LP at 102.9. Mediatrix SC, owner of neighboring Catholic-programmed WLTQ/730, had been hosting the LPFM’s antenna on its tower. But Mediatrix tells the FCC that both stations are silent – with equipment “turned off, disconnected and evacuated to a temporary storage facility on high ground.” This NOW Newsletter keeps hearing worries from Florida about dwindling supplies of gas for generators (and for staffers to get into work).
Two historic hurricanes churn up something positive – Senate passage of the “SANDy Act.”
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NJ Rep. Frank Pallone easily won passage in the House after he introduced the “Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act” in November 2015. But the Senate sat on it. Pallone wants to “make sure all communication providers – radio, TV and phone – can fix outages faster, even across state lines.” Broadcasters would be able to more easily access disaster sites and would be recognized by law enforcement and emergency personnel with special status. After seeing and hearing about Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was finally ready to move yesterday, and the SANDy Act passed unanimously. NAB had vigorously backed the bill and now “urges its quick signature into law by the President.” It thanks Rep. Pallone, as well as a number of Senators – many from the northeast states affected by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.
Update on post-storm Nielsen Audio deliveries – Tuesday’s Phase II diary markets and PPM weeklies came through on time.
Somehow, the folks based in Tampa Bay at the giant Oldsmar facility pushed out the Phase II numbers for the Day 1 markets, as planned. So we got Arbitrends for Baton Rouge, Louisville, New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Puerto. And somehow, the Week 1-September-book PPM markets were released as expected. It’s a double whammy for Nielsen, which has to gauge the usability of PPM data or returned diaries from Hurricane Harvey markets like Houston and New Orleans, and now the Hurricane Irma markets in Florida. Then its own workforce in Oldsmar was scattered by Irma, and it’s not clear what shape Oldsmar is in. Yesterday's “Dear Client” letter said it “plans to release Houston September Week 2 PPM weeklies data as previously scheduled, on Monday, September 18.” It says (reassuringly) that “We have determined that sample met Nielsen quality standards, after performing statistical tests and analysis.” They’ll run the same tests on the Week 3 data. Nielsen had “previously withheld release of preliminary week 2 data for Houston to Media Monitors,” for its Mscore product. But Nielsen is now secure enough to say that Media Monitors will receive final Houston data next Monday.
Nielsen TV had in-tab troubles in six Florida markets, on “impact Sunday.”
Ft. Myers-Naples took the Hurricane Irma hit right on the nose and its TV in-tab count for the day was just 44 households. That was down from 254 on Saturday, and well below the market’s minimum in-tab of 335 households. Up the west coast in Tampa, Sunday’s in-tab was 237 households, down from 600 the previous day and less than half the minimum of 630. In Orlando, the in-tab for Sunday, September 10 was 224 households, in a market where the minimum is 630. Over in Miami, Sunday’s in-tab was 242 households, versus a minimum of 670. And up in Jacksonville, Sunday’s in-tab was 222 households, versus the minimum of 420. If those kinds of levels are applicable to radio, it’s going to be a rough week. One NOW Reader says “The issue in Florida is that phone cell sites continue to die, as their generators run out of gas or their backup batteries are exhausted.” Got a story about Hurricane Irma or Harvey to share? Email Tom@RTK-Media.com.
NAB asks President/CEO Gordon Smith to stay on through 2023.
That’s a genuine surprise - we expected Smith to sign off at the end of his current deal in late 2019. But the board (chaired by Caroline Beasley) likes the job he’s doing as President/CEO. And it doesn’t want to endure another job-search/bad-fit episode like when Eddie Fritts departed after 23 years and David Rehr replaced him. The arrival of Gordon Smith in Fall 2009 was like the beginning of Glasnost, a warming period. 2009 was radio’s worst year in a couple of decades, the economy was lousy and there were issues like the labels pressing for a performance right. Gordon’s finessed all that, with a smile. The former two-term Republican Senator from Oregon has strong relationships on both sides of the aisle. (Colorado Democratic Senator Mark Udall and New Mexico Democratic Senator Tom Udall are both second cousins. Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee is another second cousin.) Announcing his contract extension, NAB says Gordon “was respected as a pragmatic lawmaker,” and that’s a quality he brought to the association. The gig is also one of the most visible association-head jobs in Washington, and prestigious. Gordon’s obviously grown to love the industry and the job, because his family wealth (from Smith Frozen Foods) means he doesn’t need the NAB paycheck to cover the rent. And it’s a significant paycheck –
Gordon Smith earned $2.9 million as head of NAB in a recent fiscal year.
His base compensation for the fiscal year that ended March 2016 was $2,484,571, enhanced by $375,000 in bonus plus benefits. The NAB’s Form 990 IRS filing shows NAB’s total revenue that year at just about $70.9 million. Executive compensation, including Smith, totaled about $8.57 million, or 11.6% of revenue. Smith’s paycheck has risen substantially, along with the NAB’s total revenue. For the fiscal year that ended March 2012, his compensation was $1.43 million. A couple of years later, it had doubled. Follow the trend in the Form 990 total revenue reported to the IRS, starting in the fiscal year ending March 2012 - $47.9 million. Then $57 million, $57.9 million, $64.1 million and (fiscal year ending March 2016) $70.9 million. NAB is feeling confident enough to leave its longtime nest at 1771 N Street Northwest, put that building on the market and move to a new building in the Capitol Riverfront area – closer to Capitol Hill. Back to Gordon’s extended contract – at the end of 2023, he’ll be 71.
Mike Francesa “Would not turn my back on the company if I thought it was in trouble” from the Craig Carton mess.
Would the heavy-billing PM driver at CBS Radio’s sports “Fan” WFAN-AM/FM (660/101.9) really change his mind about December 15 being his last day? Mike tells the New York Post the arrest of the “Boomer & Carton” co-star “has changed some conversations.” If he splits – replacement still TBD – there would be instability in both drive-time positions, right around the time CBS Radio is merging with Entercom. Even so, Francesa says “my gut feeling is no,” about staying for a while. Carton’s arrest on fraud charges is clearly agonizing for his ten-year partner Boomer Esiason. He told the Toucher & Rich morning show at CBS-owned “98.5 the Sports Hub” WBZ-FM in Boston that “I’m lost and heartbroken over the whole thing, trying to figure out what the future holds.” He reveals that Carton has ADD, obsessive-compulsive disorder and “a touch of Tourette’s.” Meanwhile, Carton’s lawyer insists he’s “a victim who was deceived, manipulated and used,” as part of a Ponzi scheme involving pricy concert tickets. The Francesa situation was already the New York market’s obsession and now there’s the bizarre story about Carton. The CBS Sports Network will keep cablecasting the WFAN morning show, as it has since early 2014 – because the show must go on.
Apple’s new $999 iPhone “X” is an introduction to “Augmented Reality,”
So you can point it at an object and have that thing described. No need to don a headset. Also, its new “Face ID” lets you simply show your face to log in on the OLED screen that covers one entire side of the phone. (Bye-bye, “home button.”) The folks in Cupertino also introduced new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus models yesterday, along with the company’s new “spaceship” of an office. Read the review of all three from Wired, and its predictions about where Apple’s taking the consumer tech industry, here.
The new Apple Watch will play Apple Music’s 40 million tunes. (But where’s the updated smart speaker?)
Billboard notices something that Apple didn’t say yesterday – “Conspicuously absent in the announcement was an expected update to Apple's HomePod smart speaker, which many had expected would get an upgrade as the home audio/smart speaker market gets crowded” with the likes of Amazon’s Echo and Dot devices. Apple’s shown in the past that it’s willing not to be first into a new product category, but Amazon, Google and others are speedily creating the smart speaker category right in front of our eyes. As for the Apple Watch Series 3 – it’s yet another competitor to OTA radio. Billboard says “for the first time the Apple Watch will allow users access to Apple Music,” thanks to its own cellular access. (It doesn’t need an iPhone nearby.) And it works with Apple AirPod earbuds. The Series 3 watch with cellular service is priced at $399.
$19.5 million – some due this year and some in 2019 – is what Allen Dick’s paying Larry Wilson’s Alpha Media.
That’s for the Alpha stations in Greenville-New Bern, Myrtle Beach, Savannah and Hilton Head. For the September 6 NOW story, we didn’t have the price or the terms, and they’re surprising. For one thing, they’re slicing this deal up into two sections. Greenville-New Bern and Myrtle Beach are together valued at $14.5 million. The Greenville stations include CHR “Bob 93.3” WERO Washington, while the Myrtle Beach contingent includes classic rock “Wave” WYAV/104.1. But Savannah and Hilton Head are treated differently. On the day it closes on Greenville and Myrtle Beach, Dick Broadcasting Company will put $500,000 into escrow, related to Savannah-Hilton Head. That sits in an interest-bearing account and is non-refundable. The contract says if this second part of the deal is terminated by the seller under certain conditions, it gets to keep the $500,000 plus interest. Of course everybody hopes the full deal closes as planned. But the closing for Savannah and Hilton Head isn’t scheduled until December 2019, over two years from now. The Savannah stations include “New Country” 106.9” WUBB Bluffton, and the Hilton Head group includes “Rock 106.9” WFXH.
Saga’s Ed Christian still has $40 million in his pocket to spend.
This NOW Newsletter continues to hear that Ed thought he had the Alpha Media deal – Greenville-New Bern, Myrtle Beach, Savannah, Hilton Head - sewn up for Saga. But it went to DBC instead. Saga got $66.6 million from selling its TV stations to Morgan Murphy. For tax reasons, Ed Christian would like to reinvest that in broadcasting, and he just sank $23 million into buying the Apex stations in Charleston, SC and Hilton Head. Adding these Alpha Media stations would make sense, though Saga would need to divest some properties. How are things going in Charleston? Well, there’s trouble at gospel WSPO/1390. Saga tells the FCC that “Hurricane Irma storm surge damage occurred to the Tower One ATU House. The entire [Automatic Tuning Unit] structure was dislodged from its foundation, rendering the nighttime array inoperable.” The immediate remedy is to broadcast at night from the daytime site, using 25% of licensed power, non-directional. Like many other requests for STA (Special Temporary Authorization) from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the FCC will grant this one. But it’s certainly not good Southern hospitality from Mother Nature – Saga’s only owned WSPO for about a week.
Is Boston’s Blue Hill Avenue a notorious den for pirates? Yesterday’s batch of five “Notices of Unlicensed Violation” turn out to reflect pirate radio activity at 614 Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester (on 101.3), next door at 616 Blue Hill Avenue (105.3), and then a couple of miles down the road in Mattapan at 1601 Blue Hill Avenue (104.7). Richard Clouden and Talya Andrea Lantz are told to knock it off from their leased property at 614 Blue Hill, while Michelle Joseph and Quinton Joseph are separately warned at 616 Blue Hill. The Mattapan site used by Yvon Grandchamps is allegedly a business. As usual, the FCC’s powers are limited – it can order unlicensed stations to shut down and issue $25,000 fines if they don’t. But the Commission can’t immediately seize equipment and force a shutdown.
“Mix 101.9” Chicago’s “Eric & Kathy Show” evolves to “Eric in the Morning with Melissa and Whip,” ending months of melodrama. WTMX morning stalwart Eric Ferguson is “expected to unveil the new name” on today’s show, says Robert Feder. Kathy Hart’s officially been cut from the rolls of Hubbard Radio employees, and Feder says the new branding for the market’s #1-ranked age 6+ AQH show will “recognize the roles of longtime contributors Melissa McGurren and Brian ‘Whip’ Paruch.” In the end, Hubbard loses a high six-figure host salary, and so far the ratings haven’t varied (without Kathy). Feder says there’s been some gamesmanship – a billboard campaign from iHeart’s top 40 “Kiss 103.5” WKSC that says “Kathy Hart, Thank You for 21 Incredible Years.”
Danville, Virginia proves you can’t keep a good “Legend” down. A year after Lakes Media moved “Country Legends” off an AM/translator/geo-blocked online service to online-only – it’s back on terrestrial radio. Owner Tom Birch says “both advertisers and listeners have begged for us to return the County Legends to [OTA] radio.” It was “weak advertiser support” that prompted Lakes Media to move the format off WMPW Danville/970 and its translator at 105.9 to the online world (August 30, 2016 NOW). But the market has spoken and that’s the end of the AC “MOREfm” format on 970 and 105.9. They’re staging a Country Legends launch party Friday at noon. Check out the stream here.
Santa Rosa’s hearing alternative rock again, five months after Sinclair Communications lost its LMA of KNOB Healdsburg/96.7. For 15 years, Sinclair programmed JYH Broadcasting’s KNOB as “96X,” and then it fell silent (April 13 NOW). Guess they missed doing the format, because Sinclair (says Radio Insight) has reformatted its own CHR “Y100.9” KSXY Forestville to “Modern alternative.” New station name, in a typical California tribute to road nomenclature – “The 101.”
The name “Morgan” makes sense for a station in Morgantown, WV, right? That’s the station name and format change made by the Raese family’s AJG Corporation, at WCLG/1300 and its translator at 92.1 (W221DR). The modification from “Classic Hits 13” to “Morgan” occurred just before Labor Day, says Radio Insight. It describes the new playlist as “focusing on hot AC hits of the 1980s through early 2000s.” AJG’s using former WVAQ/101.1 morning personalities Adam Etris and Sarah McGuire for wakeups on “Morgan.”
Chattanooga’s “Alt” gets some tinkering, with Bahakel completing its upgrade and frequency-move of a translator for which it paid $50,000. The translator was originally Family Radio’s W268BJ in Reynolds, Georgia, and first Bahakel moved it into Chattanooga at 93.9. Now it’s W254DB, a full 250-watter at 98.7, paired with alternative rock WXCT/1370 – the former WDEF. It’s been alternative since last November. Station manager Danny Howard clues NOW Readers in about “staying tuned for additional announcements.”
Another week, another “Jack” for Midwest Communications, this time in Fargo. The flip from AC “Mix 101.9” to variety hits “Jack” at KRWK “eliminates the only AC station in the Fargo market,” says Radio Insight. Duke Wright’s Midwest bought Jim Ingstad’s Fargo cluster five years ago, and shifted AC “Mix” to 101.1 two years ago. Radio Insight recently picked up registrations by Midwest for a total of three new Jacks – and of course it bought Nashville’s “96.3 Jack” WCJK in 2014. That Jack is the current age 6+ total-week AQH share ratings champ in Nashville.
In South Georgia, 25% “Broadcast South” owner John Higgs buys out his three partners, paying them $350,000 each. That means $350,000 to “Nearly Famous Properties” (Brian and Cindy Vaughn). And the same amount to “BGW LLC” (Brandi Harris, Billy Waldron, Brooks Waldron) and to Kerry Van Moore of West Green, Georgia. Broadcast South bought five of these stations in 2006 for $1.5 million. Those included country “92.5 the Farm” WKZZ Tifton and hot AC WDMG-FM/97.9, which Broadcast South re-licensed from Douglas to Ambrose. In 2008, they paid Jeff Davis Broadcasters $643,000 for classic rock “93.5 the Eagle” WVOH-FM, re-licensed from Hazlehurst to Nicholls, and WHJD Hazlehurst/920. Then later came a translator, W290BR, which broadcasts with the AM as classic hits “105.9 the Sting.”
This time, they included the $532,124 purchase price in the FCC filing for a Missouri cluster, so things can proceed between seller Carol Carter’s Kanza Inc. and buyer Miles Carter’s “Carter Media LLC.” They originally filed this transfer back in July, but omitted the price. The stations are ag/full-service KMZU Carrollton (100.7/C1), “Country 103.9” KRLI Malta Bend (a C2), and an AM/translator combo marketed as top 40 “101.3 the Grenade.” That’s KAOL Carrollton (500 watts daytime/27 watts at night on 1430) and translator K267BN Bosworth. Terms are friendly – a 15-year seller note at 2.75% interest.
“Why radio can’t accommodate today’s hit music” is the provocative title of a new analysis by Dave Van Dyke of Bridge Ratings. And the answer? Superstar artists like Drake, Taylor Swift, Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar, Imagine Dragons “have several songs from new releases all over our streaming charts.” Van Dyke says the artists and labels have been “learning the capabilities of on-demand music streaming, and how it could benefit sales or consumption.” While “Radio’s antiquated exposure systems” can’t handle the profusion of titles. Listeners want more control, even while still liking radio’s “ease of use, companionship and local Information.” See the Bridge charts and commentary here.
Courtney Holt is quickly named by Spotify to succeed onetime radio programmer/consultant (and onetime MTV/VH1 executive) Tom Calderone. Holt was most recently with Disney and in his new gig will “lead Spotify’s efforts around original video and podcast programming,” says Variety. L.A.-based Holt becomes VP and head of “Spotify Studios,” reporting to Chief Content Office Stefan Blom.
Pamela B. McKay spent most of two full decades with Clear Channel/iHeart in Texas, her time evenly divided between managing sales in Houston and being the market president in Austin. Her new gig with Radio One takes her back to Houston – as VP/General Manager. Her new responsibilities will be urban AC “Majic 102.1” KMJQ, urban “97.9 the Box” KBXX, gospel “Praise 102.1 HD2” (on KMJQ’s HD Radio channel) and top 40 “Now 92.1” KROI. McKay succeeds the departed Gary Spurgeon, and faces pressing issues of recovery from Hurricane Harvey – and what to do about low-rated KROI, the former classic hip-hop “Boom 92.1” and former “News 92.1.” In Nielsen’s last three PPM months KROI has moved 1.1 to 1.1 to 1.2, with age 6+ AQH total-week share. Radio One hoped to capitalize on the top 40 vacancy left when CBS converted KKHH to classic hits “95.7 the Spot” - now up around a 5.0-share.
Tony Bennett – not the beloved singer – is apparently out as the morning host at Alpha Media’s top 40 “99.3 the Vibe” WVBE, in the Fredericksburg market. The station’s pages of “Shows” lists just “Vibe Music” from 6am to 10am. A NOW tipster says “I hear they’ve replaced Tony with a syndicated program” – TBA, though Alpha’s been an enthusiastic user of the Seattle-based Brooke & Jubal. Some other cost-cutting at the Fredericksburg cluster may warm up speculation that Alpha would sell Fredericksburg, VA. With Greenville-New Bern, Myrtle Beach and Savannah-Hilton Head sold to Dick Broadcasting. Portland, Oregon-based Alpha doesn’t have much left in the Southeast.
Free is good – In radio, “Free” can mean lots of things, including something the station acquired via trade-out or something supplied by a record label. More NOW Reader answers to “You’ve worked in radio if…” – From Bob Hughes, “If you’ve taken your unused records to the local Marine base, to give away.” From “Anonymous, please” – “If you ever gave away records or CDs as Halloween gifts at the door, instead of candy. That meant sometimes telling a kid she had to take a particular artist she didn’t want. Awkward.” From RTK Media’s Robert Unmacht – “If you have no money, but you’re driving on deluxe tires, from a station tradeout.” And from Skip Joeckel of Talk Shows USA – “If you can’t use the free dry-cleaning coupons from your boss, because your wardrobe consists of nothing but station t-shirts.” Time to share your favorite story about radio, whether it’s short or longer. What’s the thing you enjoy telling friends in the business about? Email “You Can’t Make This Up” – Tom@RTK-Media.com.
In the middle of budgeting, already? Keep the Classified Section of this Tom Taylor NOW Newsletter in mind, for when openings occur. Talk to our Kristy Scott. She’s just back from the Radio Show in Austin. Reach her at Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. See you back first thing tomorrow morning – Tom