|The Dashboard Wars, 2015 model year
HD Radio is missing from the new Chevy Traverse (and more GM models).
iBiquity confirms to this NOW Newsletter that “the Chevrolet Traverse may not include our technology for a period of time.” A site named GMAuthority says among the changes for the Traverse, “HD Radio [is] removed.” There’s more. For the 2015 Silverado truck, GMAuthority says “HD radio feature removed from all radios.” Same for the 2015 GMC Sierra truck, here. For the high-end Buick Enclave, the previous “Color Touch AM/FM/SiriusXM/HD Radio with CD player” is replaced by “AM/FM/SiriusXM radio with CD player.” No mention of HD. As for the Chevy Impala, no HD, and SiriusXM also appears to be missing. So is GM’s in-house OnStar – but there’s a visible reason for that. The GMAuthority Impala page says “On the new features front, Impala adds OnStar Generation 10 Hardware with 4G LTE and Wi-Fi hot-spot capability.” And that’s where GM’s really headed, as the May 13 NOW lead story had it – “GM makes a major commitment to 4G LTE in the car.”
GM wants to be your wireless (and audio) provider on wheels.
OnStar paved the way, many years ago, as you can see by the “Generation 10” designation for the upscale 2015 Impala. Chevy Malibu was the first General Motors brand to offer 4G LTE service and eventually it will be available in 30 models in the new production year. You’ll be offered a free trial for three months, until you hit 3 gigabytes of data. Then you can pay $10 a month for 200 megs of data, or even $50 for 50 gigs. Selling telematics and communications services can guarantee GM a revenue stream long after the new-car smell is gone and you’re tired of making payments. GM’s not the only carmaker who’s thinking that way. But to have HD Radio out of the dashboard for at least some 2015 models is a step backward for over-the-air radio. Pandora’s been aggressively courting the automakers and getting its icon on dashboard screens. It’s also frequently mentioned in some new advertising. HD Radio hasn’t had the same prominence in car ads, despite its head-start. There are usually radio group head meetings with iBiquity around the annual Radio Show, and the latest decisions by GM could be a topic.
The clock is ticking on “Nash Icon.”
It’s game-on for Cumulus, which just put 15 signals (full-power stations, translators, HD Radio feeds) into the untested format that Co-COO John Dickey believes will fill the next-demo-up position from “today’s country.” As you read yesterday, Dickey believes it’s finally time for country to fragment (for real), and that there’s a large reservoir of demand for artists from the late 1980s, 1990s and 2000s who aren’t able to break into the charts any more. We know from Monday’s call with journalists that Cumulus quietly tried the Nash Icon approach on some “hybrid” stations, and didn’t get a clear read. Dickey thinks the target will be 35 to 50 year-olds, leaning slightly female. One country programming pro tells this NOW Newsletter that “The format they’re describing for Nash Icon is actually a 40-plus male format, and I’m not sure it will do much of anything.” He also says “I wonder if it’s a way to distract investors.” That guy’s not the only skeptic – so the best way for Cumulus to prove that it’s got something with Nash Icon is to generate ratings, and then revenues. There’s a wide range of test tracks, if you will – from Atlanta (on the HD Radio-fed translator at 98.9) to Detroit (the HD2 signal of WDRQ, but no translator). It’s also just started in Birmingham (on the former top 40 “99.5 the Vibe” WZRR), Albuquerque (KBZU/96.3) and Bloomington, Illinois (WJBC-FM). Certainly Cumulus wants some success stories as it takes Nash Icon to potential syndication clients, through Westwood One. So the clock is ticking.
CBS Radio and Townsquare team for the “Michigan News Network” – competing with Saga.
One of Saga’s interests is its collection of dedicated state radio networks serving Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan. Now CBS and Townsquare crash the party with a news/sports network whose charter affiliates are Townsquare’s own stations around Michigan – powered by content from CBS Radio’s all-news WWJ Detroit (950) and all-sports sister “97.1 The Ticket” WXYT-FM. They launch next Tuesday with almost 20 affiliates, in markets like Flint, Lansing, Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor. There will be top-of-the-hour newscasts from 6am to 7pm and separate sports updates from the Ticket. Townsquare’s licensing the content from CBS and will handle the syndication end of the business. That seems to put CBS/Townsquare into competition with Saga’s Lansing-based Michigan News Network and even its Michigan Farm Radio Network. Its selling point has been that it’s “the only statewide commercial broadcast network along with a fully-staffed Capitol bureau.” Its website is here. Townsquare would seem to have some built-in advantages, since it owns stations in Michigan – and Saga doesn’t. But Saga’s the incumbent. Read the full release from CBS and Townsquare here.
STRATA finds ad agencies highly interested in video and online radio – and more interested in spot radio.
Radio group heads have been predicting that the back half of 2014 will be better than the first months (especially Q3), and STRATA seems to suggest that’s how the agency folks are leaning, too. But video’s the shiny new toy. The latest attitudinal survey by the media buying-selling software provider STRATA turns up many, many mentions of YouTube. As in, “72% of agencies said their clients are interested in advertising on that medium, up 5% from last year.” Video aggregator Hulu was at 36%, up about a third from last year. But there’s a caveat – STRATA says “despite the strong growth for digital video, agencies still question the value of online video ads.” 40% aren’t sure they’ve gotten good value for their money in that space. Streaming/online radio “saw a 53% increase” in interest from last year. But there’s room on the shelf for spot radio, too. “13% of agencies responded that that that medium is receiving the most interest, up 32% from a year ago.” Overall, new STRATA president Joy Baer says “while dollars continue to flow to the traditional advertising mediums, our agencies continue to ask for better ways to buy digital video advertising.” Check the survey’s key findings here.
Alleging invasion of privacy, an Arkansas man sues SiriusXM.
Charles Gastineau says he bought a Saturn through a private sale in 2012, and that he’s never subscribed to SiriusXM. But last Fall, he began receiving direct mail marketing pieces from the satcaster, informing him that his vehicle has an inactive XM radio and that the company’s turning it back on for a while. A good thing, right? Problem is, Gastineau’s attorneys say that “in Arkansas, vehicle owners’ personal information is entitled to special protections.” But somehow, after the private sale, SiriusXM obtained Gastineau’s home address, and it knew the VIN (vehicle identification number) of the car he’d bought. He called the company, and it was unable to tell him how it knew about him. In June, Gastineau sued in federal court alleging both invasion of privacy and violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Now the federal court has granted Gastineau’s request to remand the case to Lonoke County, Arkansas Circuit Court (though it denied his request for fees and costs). It may be that a local court would be more sympathetic to an Arkansas driver. And it’s definitely a reminder that SiriusXM’s vigorous campaign to reach the owners of used cars equipped with its gear can run into state and other laws.
“The Magic – Radio’s Storytellers” is a just-announced Radio Show event featuring Bob & Tom, Scott Shannon and Clark Howard – quite a gathering of storytellers. Consultant Gary Berkowitz will moderate the opening day panel in Indianapolis on Wednesday, September 10. Two days later there’s also a “Programming Masters Series,” including Steve Jones of ABC News Radio, Jack FM’s Howard Cogan and Dom Theodore of The Blaze Radio Network. If you’re headed to the NAB/RAB Radio Show, a reminder to download and use the smartphone app – it’s a useful way to research interesting stuff ahead of time, and set up your own schedule. More about the 2014 Radio Show in Indianapolis here.
CEO change at transmitter-maker Nautel, where Peter Conlon leaves after eight years as president/CEO. He’s succeeded by Kevin Rodgers, a member of the board for the past 19 years, as well as Director of Customer Service and a major shareholder. Kevin says “we have no plans to change our key strategy, which is to listen to what our customers tell us and implement their best ideas throughout our company.” Nautel is based in Hackett’s Cove, Nova Scotia. More about the top-level change from Nautel here.
Australia’s “Songl” paid-streaming service goes dark after 18 months, ending the hopes of two major labels and one of Australia’s biggest radio groups. Cumulus is earning its way into piece of the Rdio streaming service, and Australia’s Southern Cross Austereo was an original partner in Songl, along with Sony Music Entertainment Australia and Universal Music Australia. Billboard reports the decision to close down Songl next month – though the name will be transferred to the Foxtel Music service division named DMD, which offers 32 music channels. If you’re not yet used to “linear” and “non-linear” – Foxtel and terrestrial broadcast stations are linear, meaning you listen to what everybody else does, at the same time. Non-linear could mean an on-demand service like Songl – or Spotify, Deezer, Rdio, Pandora and others who crowded it out, Down Under.
Save $50 on Conclave tuition, but only if you act by this weekend, August 31. On Monday, September 1, tuition for the 39th Conclave in Minneapolis rises from $249 to $299. This is the first time the Conclave Learning Conference has been collocated with the Minnesota Broadcasters Association conference, and together they’ve attracted NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith, Emmis leader Jeff Smulyan and lots of experts for the faculty. More about the Conclave (and how to save money on registering for the November 14-15 event) here.
America’s first “Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards” event is Tuesday, November 4 in Hollywood, and there will be programming and marketing opportunities around that. The UK’s TeamRock and Classic Rock Magazine have presented this event across the pond for the last decade, and this marks their first time in America. Gary Krantz of KMG Networks is working with VH1 Radio on programming, leading up to a red carpet (hey it’s Hollywood) and backstage. Krantz says “this is an A-list rock star-studded event.” VH1’s “On Tap with Nik Carter” will devote two weeks of programming to it, as fans vote for the awards here and on the sites of participating stations. AdLarge Media will take care of national ad sales for “The Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards.” One more thing – voting will also be open in the category for Best Classic Rock Station.
Inc. Magazine puts LDR Interactive on its list of “fastest growing companies” – making it just one of 41 software companies in the world on this year’s Inc. 500. Founder/CEO Daniel Anstandig started with the music-sourcing LDR1 and Takeover platforms, then added mobile apps for TV and radio, and the TopicPulse platform – “real-time social media trends for content generators and newsrooms across the globe.” LDR says it’s the only TV/radio technology company on the 2014 edition of the Inc. 500 list.
In Statesboro, Georgia, a $600,000 closing sets up three format changes. Husband-and-wife Neal and Elizabeth Ardman now own more six stations, and the Statesboro Herald says they’re not just sitting in the corner office. The plan is to flip WZBX Rocky Ford (106.3) from classic rock to top 40. Also to try to increase the power of WPTB Statesboro (850) from its current 1,000 watts fulltime. And to shift WPTB’s current Yahoo Sports Radio-based format from 850 up to WWNS, which runs 710 watts at 1240. And the news/talk format moves from 1240 to the stronger 850. Also – the Herald says that veteran Buddy Horn is retiring from WWNS and sister “Fox News Radio 107.3” WMCD. Neal Ardman says “I’m an old-school radio guy. I believe our success relies on us being live and local” – and he aims to get the stations he bought from Georgia Eagle “re-acclimated to the communities which we serve.”
Here’s a fresh idea – why not go back to using the call letters as your brand? That’s the decision in Vancouver, British Columbia, where new owner Newcap Radio reconsiders the branding it inherited at CISL – “AM 650.” Now they’re emphasizing the CISL call letters again, for an audience that links them with easy oldies music from Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Tony Bennett and yes, the Beatles. CISL debuted in 1980 and has recently passed from owner Astral to Bell Media and now to Newcap. The branding becomes “Smooth and Easy, CISL 650 AM.” Traditionally, they’ve pronounced the call letters as “C-Isle.”
Three Iowa stations come back home to Townsquare, now that they’re officially assigned to the Waterloo market and not Cedar Rapids. Cumulus previously owned the trio and had them considered as part of the larger Cedar Rapids market. (Cedar Rapids is ranked at #205 by Nielsen, while Waterloo is #242.) That prevented Townsquare from accepting them along with the other 50 stations it bought from Cumulus in a deal worth $238 million. So they went into the Cedar Rapids Divestiture Trust, overseen by Allen N. Blum. Now enough time has passed and they’re part of the Waterloo market, so they can finally join their kinfolks at Townsquare. The stations are CHR “Q92.3” KKHQ-FM, Oelwein, a full Class C. Classic rock KCRR Grundy Center, a C3 at 97.7. And country “K98.5” KOEL-FM, a C3 licensed to Cedar Falls. There’s no purchase price attached to the deal, just assumption of liabilities.
“Why digital music services always steal each others’ customers” is Mark Mulligan’s guest column in Kurt Hanson’s RAIN Newsletter. He supplies a graphic about “digital music’s great customer transition story,” showing “a core of consumers moving from one provider to another” – and everybody trying to figure out the puzzle of monetizing their product. Mulligan prophesizes that both download and CD sales will keep shrinking (though “the CD has less to worry about than the download’). That’s because consumers are increasingly comfortable with on-demand access to music. Mark says “by 2019, 70% of all digital revenue globally will be from on-demand services, representing 40% of total music revenues.” Read more here.
Japan’s SoftBank failed to buy T Mobile, so its CEO is assembling a war-chest to pursue a target like Yahoo or Dish, says Bloomberg. Ambitious tycoon Masayoshi Son already controls Sprint and had hoped to merge it with T Mobile. That didn’t fly, so he’s raising more money to continue an acquisition spree that has added up to $51 billion in the past five years. Mr. Son also tried and failed to buy Universal Music Group, one of the world’s three largest music labels. If you’re looking for possible clues, SoftBank is the largest shareholder in Yahoo Japan. But Bloomberg says that buying satellite TV Dish would let Sprint flower into “a home broadband platform that would compete with products from Verizon and AT&T.”
Jason Wolfe has spent his career in Boston radio, most notably 22 years in programming Entercom’s all-sports WEEI (first on 850 and then also on 93.7). He left last year and is involved with former ’EEI personality Glenn Ordway at the online SportsTalkBoston.com – and now adds another role to his daily routine. Jason’s the Chief Media and Marketing Strategist at the Boston-based Financial Exchange Radio Network. That’s a newly-created position at the firm whose President/CEO is Barry Armstrong.
Hank Bauer tells a joke, at the end of a San Diego Chargers pre-season game, and it earns him a one-game suspension. What did he say? According to ESPN, the radio analyst commented to play-by-play announcer Josh Lewin that many folks in the expensive seats had left, because the Chargers were clearly going to lose. Lewin said he would’ve stayed. Then Bauer told Lewin, who’s presumably Jewish, “You know how copper wire was invented? Somebody dropped a penny between Josh and his family member” – implying that both would’ve fought so hard over the coin that they'd stretch it out. That plays to a stereotype about Jews and money. Bauer added, “I say that respectfully and endearingly, my partner.” Both men work for Clear Channel. Yesterday, the Chargers said “although we know Hank had no ill-will behind his remarks, we agree the comments were inappropriate.” It says former NFL player Hank Bauer won’t be working tomorrow’s final pre-season game against the Arizona Cardinals - “per Clear Channel’s decision.”
Scott Jordan is a professor of computer science at UC-Irvine and has served on the FCC’s Open Internet Technical Advisory Committee. Now he accepts the challenge of being the Commission’s fulltime Chief Technology Officer, succeeding Henning Schulzrinne, who’s headed back to Columbia. Jordan will “engage with technology experts outside the agency and promote technical excellence among the staff.” It’s a tough job, keeping the regulator up to speed.
Les Acree was recognized by his peers in 2007 as a worthy member of the Country Radio Hall of Fame, for his work programming stations like Knoxville's WIVK, WTQR Winston-Salem, WNOE New Orleans and Shreveport's KRMD. Sorry to report that Les died yesterday afternoon in Nashville. He'd had a stroke Sunday, but had been in poor health since a stroke in 2007. Arrangements are being handled by a funeral home in Memphis (where he once programmed WMC), and there's more about Les on Facebook here.
Sometimes you just shake your head - Dallas-based programmer Peter Z (Zolnowski) says "Friday’s story reminds me of early in my career at WINR Binghamton, when ownership considered the day after Thanksgiving as a normal workday - not just for jocks, but the entire staff. I was coming out of the studio for coffee when I heard the receptionist stomping up the stairs. She was shaking her head and cursing. I asked her why she was so upset and she told me that not only was she angry to not have a four-day weekend, but she’d just looked at the calendar - and, damn it, Thanksgiving is on a Thursday next year, too." Remind you of a story that’s a favorite of yours? Email “You Can’t Make This Up” – Tom@RTK-Media.com.
Where’s the future going for radio? We’re all learning it, day by day. Thanks for spending time with this Tom Taylor NOW Newsletter, as we figure things out and change our plans and strategy. And thanks for telling a friend about us – it’s how we keep growing. Want to reach this audience? Talk to Kristy Scott. She’s at Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. See you back first thing tomorrow - Tom