|No second-in-command at Cumulus
Sure enough, Cumulus won’t be hiring an EVP of Radio.
The speculation here back on January 29 was that after five months of door-knocking by the Spencer Stuart executive search firm, CEO Lew Dickey (pictured) would keep the reins in his own hands, and not create a new Executive VP/Radio position. That’s one of the announcements on yesterday afternoon’s fourth-quarter call – no EVP of radio. Lew says that’s possible because of a “newly-fortified regional oversight structure, which we will finalize later this month.” In fact, just hours before the Cumulus call with analysts, the company announced it was moving Donna Baker from the Chicago market manager job to a new Midwest Regional position, based in Kansas City. More about that in a moment, but there will be more regional executive announcements like that. Lew says they’ve been “reorganizing ourselves to be flatter, and to drive greater ownership of the company’s operating plan” among their 95 market managers. It’s also possible that a lot of folks approached by Spencer Stuart declined to be candidates for the Cumulus job. Dickey also alerts investors to some future “new key hires” in the areas of “research, marketing and brand sponsorship,” in the next 30 days.
Raiding CBS, Cumulus changes out market managers in New York and Chicago.
For New York, Cumulus peels away 14-year CBS exec Chad Lopez, most recently the GSM for heavy-hitting New York all-newsers “1010 WINS” and WCBS-AM (880). Lopez also carried a separate position as Director of Sales for those stations plus all-sports “Fan” WFAN-AM/FM (660/101.9). Chad gets the keys to the office vacated by Kim Bryant (January 13 NOW), the new L.A.-based EVP/West Coast Sales for Westwood One. He also gets a chance to be a market manager – something that likely wasn’t going to happen at CBS, with EVP/Operations Scott Herman also ramrodding the New York cluster. The Cumulus-NYC station group includes hot AC WPLJ (95.5), talk WABC (770), country “Nash 94.7” WNSH and urban AC “Radio 103.9” WNBM. As for Chicago, there’s a chance for a return to GM status for another CBS’er –
Cumulus promotes Donna Baker to Midwest Regional VP…
Which opens up her former Chicago Market Manager post to Peter Bowen – who can return to the city where he was once the GM of rhythmic “B96” WBBM-FM and classic hits WJMK (104.3), and also the cluster Director of Sales for CBS. He put in 16 years for CBS in the Windy City, but the company went with a single-manager system for its individual markets, and Bowen wound up in sunny Los Angeles, as Senior VP/Director of Sales for CBS. Now Cumulus gives him the shot to return to Chicago as a manager, overseeing stations like talk WLS (890), classic hits WLS-FM (94.7) and the two FMs Cumulus is leasing from Merlin Media (classic rock “Loop” WLUP/97.9 and alternative WKQX/101.1). Donna Baker is leaving the Windy City for Kansas City, where she’ll be the Midwest Regional VP, with responsibilities for Minneapolis, Des Moines and K.C. Again, expect more regional VP announcements, to cover the more than 90 local markets owned by Cumulus.
Cumulus receives “a pre-emptive” bid for its D.C. real estate – but would it sell some tower assets?
Lew Dickey never addressed the “tower assets” question posed on yesterday’s quarterly call by analyst Avi Steiner of JPMorgan. Steiner points out that “a competitor” – that would be iHeart – is doing a sale/leaseback of tower assets to raise money, but we don’t know what Cumulus is thinking in that regard. Towers continue to sell for higher multiples than radio or TV stations, and Cumulus says it owns 163 tower sites in its 90 markets. We do get updates on both the L.A. situation and Washington DC, and they appear to be real windfalls for Cumulus. In fact, between selling those and some smaller former Citadel assets (not clear what those are), Dickey says there will effectively be “a 10% rebate” on the deal where Cumulus bought Citadel. Meaning that they’ll realize 10% of the purchase price, from proceeds of sales. In L.A., the KABC (790) site is under contract for $125 million, but must be re-zoned. Dickey expects a closing late this year or in early '16. While the parcel of land in Bethesda occupied by DC-market talk WMAL-AM (630) is different. It won’t need re-zoning, and – here’s some news – Dickey says they’ve already got “a pre-emptive bid” which appears to be over $75 million, since he’d predicted they’d get $200 million for L.A. and DC, combined. No indication who the mystery bidder is, but Dickey says there are “over a hundred interested parties.” Locals wonder how fast that deal can happen, since there’s only one road into that property, where developers might like to erect dozens of luxury homes. All of the $200 million or so from real estate sales must be used to pay down debt. Total debt stands at $2.5 billion, says CFO J.P. Hannan.
Like other companies, Cumulus says fourth quarter softened up “around Thanksgiving.”
CEO Lew Dickey says last October was up high single digits. But November was flat, and December was down low single digits. Lew says it was “a challenging holiday sales season for retailers,” and unfortunately, “the choppiness seen in fourth quarter continued into January.” $11 million of political revenue helped, but that was less than expected. And a weak climate at TV and cable may’ve kept more political ad dollars in those mediums. Lew feels pretty decent about his quarter, compared to his 56 Miller Kaplan-measured markets. What he calls core revenue was down 3.7% for those markets, while Cumulus was off 3.4%. In national spot, the overall markets were up 4.9%, while Cumulus did 9.4% better. Also helping – NTR (bridal fairs, job fairs, etc.) is a promising area, and Cumulus is “testing a number of concepts for a wider rollout this year.” Digital is “a small but rapidly growing category,” up 30% compared to the overall markets being up an average of 9%. For 2015 so far, Lew says revenues are getting sequentially better each month. Now back to the actual fourth-quarter results – they produced a revenue and earnings miss, per Seeking Alpha. It says total revenue of $329 million was a miss of nearly $4 million, and that earnings of two cents a share were seven cents below the consensus. Revenue was up 0.3% on a pro forma basis, comparing the same bucket of assets from late 2013 to last year’s Q4. Adjusted EBITDA (something like cash flow) slipped 6.2%, pro forma. Could be an interesting day today for “CMLS” stock. Full-year, Cumulus revenue was up 1.4% to $1.263 billion, which adjusted EBITDA slipped 9.3%.
Nash and Nash Icon get a shout-out from Cumulus. Not so much for SweetJack or CBS Sports Radio.
A couple of years ago, CEO Lew Dickey backed four big initiatives, and one of them has been only casually mentioned for a while now – the Groupon-like SweetJack daily deals product. Nothing said about that or the partnership with CBS Sports Radio Network on yesterday’s Q4 call. That doesn’t mean they’ve vanished, but they’re not growth drivers. The press release does say the rise in digital revenue is due to “increased Rdio user generation activity, and digital commerce generated by our SweetJack platform.” The fourth original initiative was traffic, and while that wasn’t mentioned, either, it’s probably humming along. But the country “Nash” project plays the star role, with Lew saying it should contribute $25 million in incremental revenue this year. 83 Cumulus-owned stations are now “Nash” or ‘90s/00s-based “Nash Icon.” Dickey brags that Reba McEntire’s first single on the Nash Icon label collaboration with Big Machine sold the most first-week singles of any Reba tune over her entire career. They’ll continue marketing the Nash/Nash Icon product to the industry via Westwood One, and the expected re-branding/makeover of Country Weekly magazine to “Nash” is due “in the coming months.” Don’t be surprised to see a Nash-branded concert tour.
Some Cumulus “problem children” are in better shape now.
No talk on yesterday’s call about a Cumulus red zone list, which have mostly been large-market stations Cumulus inherited from Citadel. CEO Lew Dickey cites success stories like Washington DC, where he says talk WMAL-AM/FM (630/105.9) is “closing the gap dramatically between it and [Hubbard-owned all-news] WTOP, the country’s #1-billing radio station.” He likes what’s happening in Chicago at WKQX and WLS (presumably classic hits WLS-FM, not talk sister WLS). There’s San Francisco, where Lew says “Nash 92.3” KSJO is beating San Jose’s country KRTY up in San Francisco and is “drawing closer to them” in San Jose. (Here's the lookup of the January Nielsen 6+ PPMs - KRTY has moved 3.1-2.9-3.2 over the last three months, with KSJO up 1.2-1.5-1.9.) Of course Lew is proud of Indy’s new #1 station, classic hip-hop “Beat 93.9” WRWM. Also of Houston CHR KRBE, Detroit’s hot AC WDVD, Cincy stations such as AC “Warm 98” WRRM, classic rock “Fox” WOFX and classic hits WGRR, Providence-market CHR WPRO-FM and AC WWLI – and he says that Nash WKDF and Nash Icon WSM-FM have become “the two top country brands in Nashville.” That may surprise iHeart-owned format competitor WSIX, but it has issues of its own.
Westwood still isn’t quite where Cumulus wants it…
In terms of the team that CEO Lew Dickey wants, that is. He tells yesterday’s call that last year’s DOJ pushback following the late-2013 closing on Westwood One cost it integration time, though they squeezed out $25 million in synergies (cost savings) last year and should repeat that this year. Dickey admits to some “key defections in the sales organization, prior to closing, due to uncertainty.” That division is focused now on “staffing and execution,” and doing things like targeting new advertisers for sports programs. But as they cycle through some contracts, Lew cautions investors to be ready for “a tough couple of quarters for Westwood One.”
“Death Threats, Rape Threats and Vicious Emails at KROQ.”
New Kevin & Bean cast member Allie Mac Kay says on Facebook “needless to say, been a rough 4 days for everyone involved. I can take a lot of abuse...but death/rape threats and lies spread about my addition to the show is way over the line.” Some social media posters turned very ugly, says Don Barrett’s LARadio.com, when CBS blew out 24-year traffic reporter Lisa May and newsman “Doc on the ROQ” Boyd R. Britton from the L.A. alt-rocker. As Don Barrett says, “Lisa was told she was gone...nothing was said on the air, then Allie shows up, and nothing is really said about introducing her to the audience.” That’s when the hating began, particularly against former KTLA-TV reporter Allie, who was seen as replacing Kevin & Bean’s female voice. (Even though Lisa worked for an outside traffic service.) Garman says “for Allie to get death threats, rape threats and the names she’s been called online...it hurts me to think our listeners are capable of that.” Some aren't even good spellers, as Allie wryly notes on Facebook - “it's called "the C word" for a reason...spelling it with a "k" made me sad for so many.” Kevin Ryder and Gene Baxter will be inducted into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame at the April 14 ASCAP-sponsored Radio Luncheon at the NAB Show in Vegas. In that context, it’ll be all-cheers, no jeers.
Ipsos says “99% of consumers are comfortable with the current AM/FM in-car radio operation.”
At a time of anxiety about whether broadcast radio can preserve its place in the dashboard, along comes a study that iHeart commissioned from Ipsos, with these conclusions – “AM/FM radio still dominates in-car listening as the top platform used, with 84% of consumers using it in the car, followed by CD players at 64% - but radio still maintains a huge leadership position over the next closest service choice, Sirius/XM, which had 22%. Pandora was 18%. iHeartRadio was 8%. HD Radio 7%. And Spotify was 7%.” Big-picture, Ipsos MediaCT VP Thomas Spinelli reports that “the consumer isn't replacing existing services and products with new ones. Instead, they want them all - making the car even more music-enabled with a number of choices at any given time.” Just keep in mind - this is still early days for in-car integration of new technology. See the release here.
“Webcast Metrics On Demand” is a new podcast measurement tool from Triton Digital and Edison.
Triton uses the “Webcast Metrics” name to its monthly listening reports of online audio created by Pandora, iHeart, CBS, Slacker and others. Now it applies the name to a new product created in partnership with Edison Research. (Triton and Edison are collaborators on Edison’s ongoing Infinite Dial study.) Here’s the logic, from Webcast Metrics GM/Chief Compliance Officer Rob Favre – “Without standardized and credible third party audience measurement, it has been extremely difficult for podcast publishers to gain acceptance from brand advertisers. Triton and Edison are solving this challenge and enabling publishers to credibly present their audience and monetize across multiple sales channels.” Favre says “The U.S. market for audio podcasts is roughly $100 million today” – but they think this kind of measurement can “build greater market value for both publishers and advertisers.”
Two years after a confidential complaint about West Virginia Low Power FM WQAZ-LP, licensee Syner Foundation agrees to pay a $16,000 civil penalty and to create an ongoing compliance program, as part of a consent decree with the FCC. The complaint alleged unauthorized transfer of control (a very serious charge), and violations of the cross-ownership rules for Low Power FMs. The FCC investigates and doesn’t find that the Syner Foundation violated those rules. But it does sanction it for underwriting announcements that cross the line into being commercials. That’s what the $16,000 penalty is for. Read more about the story with WQAZ-LP (98.5) in Edmond, West Virginia here.
Sorry, says the FCC - you can’t just assign the construction permit for a new Low Power FM to somebody else. Not even if “the community has really been engaged with the effort to create” a community station there, as the applicant argues. The plea comes from San Marcos, Texas, where San Marcos Voice was granted a license for 104.1, but then four months later decided not to build it, but to assign it to San Marcos Texas Community Radio Association. The FCC appreciates that the community doesn’t want to “miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” as Voice argues. But there’s a “high hurdle” for waiving the rules – and the agency says in this decision that San Marcos Voice can’t just change the name on the license for KZFM-LP.
CBS a $100 stock in four years? That’s what CBS CEO Les Moonves – a glass half-full guy – tells the Morgan Stanley Technology conference yesterday. At least that’s what COO Joe Ianiello is telling his boss, and that makes Moonves wary about a potential merger or other deal. He says with that kind of stock-price upside for CBS, a suitor like Viacom or Time Warner would have to pay “a very high price” for CBS. Moonves’ stock was lifting toward that direction yesterday, up 4.5% to finish at $61.75 a share. It’s been a while since it cracked the $60 barrier.
Today at 10am Illinois time is the annual statewide tornado test involving the Emergency Alert System, for stations across the state. Various National Weather Service offices will “create the ‘test’ Tornado Warning,” and the FCC has granted a one-time waiver of EAS rules. The test will carry the “TOR” EAS code – but don’t look for the storm cellar – it really is “only a test,” the one that happens on the first Tuesday of March every year in Illinois. More about what broadcasters, led by the Illinois Broadcasters Association, are doing as part of “Severe Weather Preparedness Week” here.
4% higher attendance at this year’s Country Radio Seminar, as they tote up the numbers from last week’s event in Nashville. There were 2,424 “full registrants” this year, up from 2,335, and they got to see husband-and-wife Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood open up the event with the names of the five Country Radio Hall of Fame inductees last Wednesday, right through featured speaker/performer Keith Urban, a panel with Lady Antebellum (“How 3 became 1”) and Friday night’s concluding New Faces concert.
Four wireless carriers qualified for the top 15 list of national advertisers compiled by Media Monitors. Those are MetroPCS (still at #4), BoostMobile (#5), Sprint (down a bit to #8) and AT&T Wireless at #15. Further down there’s Cricket at #37 and T-Mobile at #72. Spring normally brings some new car advertising, and #19 last week was the Nissan Dealer Association. #24 is Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge, #32 is Ford Lincoln Mercury, #39 is American Motor Honda, #56 is Honda Dealer Association, #60 is Toyota, and #64 is the Ford Dealer Association. Another sign of Spring on the car lot – 16,243 spots bought for the TrueCar mobile app, to help consumers compare and price cars. TrueCar was #10 on last week’s list of national radio users.
Once upon a time in Miami, “WSHE was only rock & roll” - but in Chicago, the new home of the WSHE call letters, “She” will represent the AC format. Hubbard and previous owners have cycled through many sets of call letters (WLOO, WXEZ, WPNT, WNND and now WSHE-FM) and even more brand identities. Those include “Windy 100,” “FM100,” “The Point,” “Love FM,”“Chicago’s 100.3” – a bunch of times – and more recently “Rewind.” Now Hubbard market manager John Gallagher says “we believe these new call letters and moniker will make us more memorable” for listeners and advertisers. The new branding is “100.3 WSHE-FM,” and Senior VP/programming Greg Solk says “with our existing marketing dominators (hot AC “Mix” WTMX/101.9 and classic hits ‘Drive’ WDRV/97.1), Hubbard Radio Chicago is now poised to have three of the biggest adult radio names in the market.” WSHE-FM’s target continues to be 25-54s, mainly women. Marty Bender is the PD, and the Hubbard website for SHE is here.
CBS Radio restores the overnight all-news block on D.C./Baltimore’s WNEW (99.1), licensed to Bowie, Maryland. The recently-added 8pm-11pm Dave Ramsey talk block stays, but WNEW programmer Robert Sanchez tells DCRTV that “we heard from many early risers who listen to WNEW in the 3am and 4am hours, who preferred our traditional format.” So KMOX St. Louis (1120)-based “Overnight America with Jon Grayson” is yanked after just one week on WNEW, and all-news is back, in the wee hours of the morning. Though Dave Hughes at DCRTV wouldn’t be surprised if there were some “locally-produced talk shows in the midnight-2am slot.” WNEW began challenging Hubbard’s mighty all-news WTOP (103.5 plus some regional simulcasts) just over three years ago.
Modesto hot AC KOSO revives its former “B93” branding, with iHeart VP/Programming Dennis Martinez saying the name “has a long history in the market” – longer than the “Radio 92.9” branding employed from October 2012 until now. KOSO is a Class A licensed to Patterson, and the B93 website is here. Lineup includes KBIG, Los Angeles-based Valentine in the morning (5-10am), Angela Cortez (10am-3pm) and John Chimpo (3-8pm).
A future non-commercial FM south of Phoenix sells for $700,000, and it becomes the second station owned by East Valley Institute of Technology District #401. Its name may suggest that EVIT would do something wonky, but its current non-com station is CHR “Teen Pulse Radio” KVIT (90.7), licensed to Apache Junction. The construction permit it’s buying is for a Class C1 at 88.7 licensed to Chandler. Seller is Arizona Community Media Foundation, and for now the CP’s known as KPNG. The $700,000 purchase price is payable either in cash-at-closing or (at the buyer’s option), in a seller note that calls for three monthly payments of $4,000, then three more or $5,000, then three of $6,000, followed by $40,000 payments on a semi-annual basis. Interest rate is the Wall Street Journal published rate plus 2%.
Montgomery’s WMGY is “proud to be the oldest Christian music station” in the market, doing southern gospel, and it’s being sold to the general manager of the local Bluewater Broadcasting cluster. That’s Terry Barber, who owns 14% of Bluewater stations such as “Bama Country” WBAM (98.9). The sale is part of the winding down of the affairs of the deceased George H. Buck. WMGY runs 1,000 watts daytime/143 watts when the stars fall over Alabama.
Allentown’s “Sunny 1100” WGPA sells, to buyer Ronald Crumbliss and his son Christopher, based in nearby Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Their CC Broadcasting is paying $95,000 for the 250-watt daytimer at 1100 licensed to Bethlehem. It runs a mix of syndicated fare (Dennis Miller, who’s about to leave the field), local (the 5pm “Polka Drive at 5”) and what appears to be some brokered programming. This is an estate situation, following the death of owner Joseph Timmer. Deborah Jean DeNardo is the court-appointed guardian for the estate. Broker is Pittsburgh-based Ray Rosenblum.
Scott Wells is another Bain Capital exec who came over to one of its portfolio companies – in his case, Clear Channel Outdoor Americas. He’s been part of the multi-person “Office of the President” there since last August, and now takes the formal title of CEO of CC Outdoor Americas. He reports to CEO Bob Pittman. Further down in the press release, we learn that Wells’ new gig repositions William Eccleshare as Chairman/CEO of Clear Channel International – a change from his previous position as CEO of Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings. Eccleshare says he “could not be more delighted” with the appointment of Wells, which allows him to concentrate on the international business.
Colleen Kurth Valkoun nails the permanent job as iHeart’s dual-market manager in Milwaukee and Madison. The VP/Sales had been interim market president since Jeff Tyler left to take over Minneapolis-St. Paul from the retiring Mike Crusham earlier this year. Western Region Senior VP of Operations Brian Olson liked what he saw with Colleen since January. The Milwaukee native will be splitting her time between Milwaukee (with stations like country WMIL/106.1) and Madison (news/talk WIBA/1310 and classic rock WIBA-FM/101.5, etc.). The clusters are about an hour and a half apart, a straight shot on I-94.
Maria Lopez-Knowles came into Entravision with last Summer’s purchase of the Pulpo digital ad services provider – a highly-touted event by management. Now she’s promoted to Chief Marketing Officer of parent Entravision, a brand-new position for the Santa Monica-based Spanish media company. Maria had been CMO at Pulpo, and will now have radio, TV and digital properties, reporting to Chairman/CEO Walter Ulloa. He says “Maria’s over 30 years of advertising and marketing expertise make her the ideal candidate” for the position. Before Pulpo, Maria was President of GlobalHue Latino, and she worked at Interpublic’s McCann Worldgroup.
Mike Buxser says “after an eight-month battle with cancer, and a bone marrow transplant, I am happy to report that I am cancer-free and doing well.” He had a form of leukemia named MDS (myelodysplasia), the same ailment that hit TV’s Robin Roberts. Mike says “thanks to the amazing teams at the Cleveland Clinic, I am on the mend and looking forward to returning to work in the near future.” But he’s leaving after ten years as VP/Market Manager for West Virginia Radio Corporation. Before that, Buxser was a market manager for the former Triad group in Hilton Head-Savannah, and Chief Operating Officer of the Adventure Radio Group. He plans on going “southward back to the Carolinas.” Mike’s at email@example.com.
Bill Shirk (William Shirk Poorman) is both a skilled professional escapologist (he eschews the label of “magician”), and longtime station owner/operator. He’s said in the past that his greatest trick was getting Radio One to pay him and his partner Bill Mays $40 million for their stations. Now Bill’s approaching 70, and he says it’s time to retire. He’s sold everything around Indianapolis, including “Radio Mom” WIRE (91.1), held by his not-for-profit Hoosier Broadcasting Corporation (November 20 NOW). Sounds like that deal just closed, because the Indianapolis Star catches Shirk at home soaking in a tub and reading the paper, having done his final WIRE airshift on Saturday. He still has a 24% ownership in a station group in Hawaii, but that’s for sale, too. Shirk has owned stations around Indianapolis since 1972, having journeyed to the big city from Muncie, where his dad owned the original WERK. Now it’s so long to a colorful owner of commercial and non-commercial stations – and a broadcaster who always had fun. (Bonus story - tells the Indy Star’s Will Higgins the secret of how he survived being buried alive with a python, a rattlesnake and two tarantulas.)
More Listeners Per Watt - Tampa-based media broker Glenn Serafin says "Many years ago when I was a young, traveling AP salesman, I called on a broadcaster in central Pennsylvania who clearly was at a disadvantage. His competitors told advertisers they had 50,000 watts while his station only had 3,000 watts. Undaunted, during a sales call one day when he heard the same old argument from a prospect, he responded, 'That may be, but we have more LPWs.' The prospect asked, 'LPWs? What are LPWs?' 'Well,' he said, 'LPWs are Listeners Per Watt. We have more Listeners Per Watt.' Amazingly, the pitch worked and the prospect bought a schedule. After that, while it’s true the pitch did not work all the time, it worked enough of the time so that 'LPWs' eventually made it onto the station rate card. (This same broadcaster later traded out a line of credit with a local bank). You gotta love radio people." Glenn Serafin is the current president of the National Association of Media Brokers, one of the sponsors of the annual Broadcasters Foundation of America breakfast at the NAB Radio Show. It’s Wednesday, April 15 at the Encore Hotel, and the sponsors write enough checks that it’s free. (This year, Mel Karmazin gets a special award.) Additional info with a call to 212-373-8250 or email Info@theBFOA.org.
Take 2 from Monday’s item about Alpha going with “Soft Rock” on Dayton-market WGTZ – Warren Kurtzman of Coleman Insights emails to point out that “the 92.9 frequency in Dayton hasn’t been CHR for years. WGTZ flipped from CHR to adult hits and adopted the ‘Fly’ moniker in November 2007.” In this conversion to AC “Soft Rock,” Alpha hopes to fill the format hole left when iHeart converted AC WLQT to country as “B94.5” WYDB.
There’s a lot of radio in this Tom Taylor NOW Newsletter every morning – all kinds of radio. You’ll learn about AM/FM, streaming, satellite and whatever else comes along, or might affect today’s “radio.” If you find value in what we do, share this issue of NOW with a friend or colleague. Want to reach this highly-engaged audience? Contact our Kristy Scott. She’s at Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. See you back first thing tomorrow - Tom