|Radio’s nightmare hack
Radio One’s RDS system is hacked in Houston, resulting in displays of the N-word.
What a nightmare. Nothing was heard on the air, but if a listener to Houston’s urban “97.9 the Box” KBXX was checking the screen of their radio Sunday night, they saw some crazy stuff. Where the song and artist info should be on the RDS (Radio Data System) screen was the N-word. Radio One jumped on the problem and tweeted this out – “#NoPlaceForHate…Saluting our staff and listeners for immediate help in addressing the hack that occurred earlier this evening.” The hack from the outside came about 9:20 Sunday night, and listeners definitely let the station know. After they did the emergency repair, Radio One says it created the #NoPlaceForHate hashtag – quick thinking. But how did the hacker gain access, from outside the company? And how many other stations are vulnerable to hacks or ransom-type holdup demands, because they’re connected to the Internet and exposed? More about how the Box responded to the outside threat from KHOU-TV here.
John Records Landecker is “calling it quits” at classic hits WLS-FM Chicago (94.7).
Robert Feder says “Landecker, 68, who’s been working without a contract since he started in January 2012, said the decision to leave is entirely his own.” He’s not calling it a retirement from radio, but jokes that “my biological grandfather clock is ticking.” Another thing – he’s burned out on the music of the 1970s and 1980s, saying “I graduated from high school in 1965 [and] all I really want to hear is the ’60s.” Call him a legend – and you’d be right. Landecker says he’s not leaving Cumulus-owned WLS-FM “with the intention of going on another radio station at all…but if I do, it’s definitely going to be my terms, 100%.” For now, he muses about exploring “things I have thought about for years,” like writing a screenplay and podcasting. Landecker first blew into Chicago in 1972 at top 40 “Big 89” WLS, and Feder recites his list of later Windy City credits – WLUP, WAGO, WJMK, WZZN, WGN, WLS (again) and since 2012, WLS-FM. Landecker’s 2013 autobiography was titled “Records Truly Is My Middle Name” – and a whole lot of young folks were inspired to consider careers in radio because of him. John’s in the radio wing of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The lawsuits flying between Cumulus and Michael Baisden are officially “contentious.”
Last Fall, love was in the air and there was talk of a settlement (October 8 NOW). But there continue to be tense filings in the suits that began with Cumulus accusing former syndicated talent Baisden of keeping $1 million that it had overpaid him due to an “accounting error.” Cumulus claims that Baisden’s side should have known about the monthly overpayments while they were occurring and then “steadfastly refused to return the overpaid amounts.” Cumulus tried to renew Baisden at the very end of his contract and there was a bizarre period of days leading to a lockout from the studio. Then came the suit by Cumulus and the countersuit by Baisden. There was a proposal to consolidate the various suits, but Cumulus still likes its odds of getting a judge to dismiss Baisden’s action. So it’s fighting the consolidation, and this case just drags on. There was supposed to be a trial starting next week, but it’s not clear where what sits. The latest official court notation at this stage refers to “the contentious nature” of the suits – and there’s no love in the air.
Radio’s second quarter – Private group heads check in with NOW –
Chuck DuCoty, COO of Iowa-based NRG Media –
Chuck says “While the back half of the year is soft right now, down a couple of points year-over-year, we see several signs for optimism. We have had some very strong ratings results thus far in the Spring book, including an important win in Omaha and improving our already dominant position in Lincoln. We do anticipate political revenue in Iowa as we get closer to the caucuses and we’re already getting avails from many of the GOP contenders for the latter part of Q3 and Q4. Pacing for Q4 is actually up two points from 2014 and ratings, hard work and some help from the politicians will combine to end a difficult 2015 on a positive note.” This NOW newsletter continued to track both private and public-company group heads about where the business is. Coming Thursday – quarterly reports from both iHeart and Cumulus.
“Wits,” a weekly show clearing on 100+ stations, is yanked by distributor American Public Media.
The cancellation expands the cloud hovering over Minnesota-based APM, like the layoffs at Minnesota Public Radio (now reported to have been 11) and the still-shocking $21.7 million money-losing sale of three classical FMs in South Florida. The weekly “Wits” began in 2010 as a statewide Minnesota Public Radio show, promising “comedy, conversation, songs and surprises with host John Moe.” The concept was to attract younger listeners, and here’s why - the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says “while only 13% of MPR members are under 35, one of every four new members is coming from that demographic.” But as of last year, the local paper says “’Wits’ had failed to turn a profit,” despite guests like actor Zach Galifianakis, comedian Patton Oswalt and "Weird Al" Yankovic. An MPR spokeswoman said “Looking at resources and time, we’re trying to refocus on projects that are more financially sustainable.” Host John Moe says they’ve “suspended the live shows and podcast so we can step back and think about what a Wits 2.0 might become in the digital world, possibly on stage and who knows where else.” Moe thanks his loyal “Witizens.”
Ex-Arbitron Chief Research Officer Gregg Lindner joins international researcher GfK in a newly-created EVP role.
It’s a solid hire for GfK MRI, but a real loss for the Media Rating Council, where Gregg’s been working since he left Arbitron in the Nielsen takeover. At Arbitron, Gregg was heavily involved in efforts to gain accreditation for various PPM markets from the Council. Now he’s left New York-based MRC to accept a very large position with a company that employs more than 13,000 “experts looking to discover new insights into the way people live, think and shop.” Gregg thus returns to a role of interacting with the Council from the outside, as he did for Arbitron. GfK Managing Director Florian Kahlert says “Anyone who has been involved in advertising and media research over the last two decades is familiar with Gregg and his outstanding leadership credentials.” Before Arbitron, Lindner worked with Scarborough as an EVP from 1996 to 2010, and was Senior VP of Research and Operations at Simmons Market Research Bureau.
Emmis elevates Pat Walsh to the full-time operating role of President/COO.
Walsh came to Indy-based Emmis in 2006 as Chief Financial Officer and has recently been carrying multiple titles –Chief Financial Officer/Chief Operating Officer, at the level of Executive VP. He’s also on the Emmis board. Now Emmis founder/CEO Jeff Smulyan moves up 16-year executive Ryan Hornaday from Senior VP/Treasurer to Executive VP/Chief Financial Officer (and still Treasurer). Jeff calls the twin moves “a natural evolution in our leadership process, allowing Ryan to take on additional responsibility for leading our finance team, thereby enabling Pat to build on his impressive track record operating our business.” Walsh calls Hornaday “one of the most talented finance executives I’ve encountered in my career.” Before Emmis, Ball State graduate Ryan Hornaday worked with Arthur Andersen. Walsh had previously been the CFO at HD Radio developer iBiquity. He graduated from Michigan and has an MBA from Harvard. One more personnel note at Emmis - Christopher Rickenbach is promoted to VP of Finance/Assistant Treasurer.
SNL Financial is bought by McGraw Hill for over $2.2 billion.
That brings Charlottesville-based SNL Financial, which does research and presents conferences in radio/TV and many other areas, into the family of publicly-traded McGraw Hill. It’s probably a very nice payday for New Mountain Capital, SNL’s controlling shareholder. Also for the former members of SNL management. SNL bought media-focused Kagan Research (founded by Paul Kagan in 1969) back in 2007 and has operated it alongside its other interests in sectors like banking/financial institutions, real estate, energy, and metals & mining. So while radio and TV industry folks gathered last month in New York for the 32nd annual TV & Radio Finance Summit, it seems the leaders of SNL were probably thrashing out their own deal, to sell the company to McGraw Hill. On a rocky day for the stock market, the acquirer’s stock (“MHFI”) finished down over 5%, off $5.99 at $99.59. SNL’s business model has several sides – it does research on specific industries, stages conferences for those industries, creates newsletters, and also conducts training for those same industries (like banking).
“Anyone with a full-power license can bump us off the air, just by moving their transmitter,” says Dave Solomon. He’s the Executive Director of the Low Power FM Advocacy Group, and he just filed an extensive 226-page rulemaking with the FCC, “supported by over 50 case studies,” arguing for strong protections for the community radio service. Solomon says “Over 600 Low Power FM stations have turned in their licenses over the past 15 years, because of the FCC’s complicated and burdensome rules. To make matters worse, the FCC gives preference to full power stations.” This isn’t a new crusade for Solomon, who’s long advocated for higher power levels for LPFMs and having them declared as a “primary service.” He says “people have lost their entire life savings by just trying to serve their community.” Check the Advocacy Group site here.
Home and auto fix-up, insurance, fast food – even a few car dealers made the top 30 of Media Monitors’ weekly ranking of national radio advertisers. The species that’s been the rarest lately, compared to several years ago, is automotive, and last week there were three examples. The Tier-2 Honda Dealer Association bought 14,677 spots to rank at #17, followed by Tier-1 Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge at #21 and Tier-1 Ford-Lincoln-Mercury at #29. Count the Tier-2 Toyota Dealer Association at #31, and that’s four automotive buyers in just about the top 30, suggesting more usage of radio to promote summer sales. Radio’s #1 national advertiser last week was Home Depot at just over 71,000 national spots (rival Lowe’s didn’t make the top 100). The biggest entrance into the Media Monitors top 10 was Progressive Insurance, up from #31 to #10.
iHeart spends more than an instant with Snapchat, in a new partnership that “will give Snapchat Discover users access to a new and exclusive iHeartRadio Channel featuring custom-created music, pop culture and entertainment news.” Of course you’ll be able to see backstage moment from the March 29 iHeartRadio Music Awards on NBC-TV. More about the hookup with Snapchat here.
AdLarge Media’s latest signing is with the AP, to rep the ad inventory for the Associated Press’ “digital on-demand service via the AudioBoom podcast platform.” AdLarge VP Jay Green says they’re “delighted to add the marquee AP news brand to our digital audio portfolio.” Affiliate stations can host the AP’s on-demand audio on both their website and mobile apps with updates to the news every hour, around the clock.
The latest Spring-book Nielsen diary markets –
Jackson, Mississippi is the only one of today’s markets that gets continuous measurement – four quarterly books a year. Alpha’s top-ranked urban WJMI keeps building, up from a 9.7 share last Fall to an 11.7 in the Winter – and now a 12.0. That’s its highest age 12+ AQH share since Winter 2010. Urban AC sister “Soft Soul Kixi” WKIX rises to second place, 9.5-8.9-8.8. That’s because iHeart’s gospel “Hallelujah 95.5” WHLH-FM is quieter, 8.7-10.4-7.8. Fourth is New South’s CHR “Y101.7” WYOY (5.1-6.5-7.1), and fifth is New South’s country “US 96.3” WUSJ (3.8-4.7-5.3). Not such a hot book for a rival, iHeart’s country WMSI (5.3-4.9-3.5). It’s now tied with George Flinn’s classic country WJXN (2.8-3.7-3.5). All shares in this section are age 12+ for the total broadcast week.
Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky is the first of today’s two-book markets (Spring and Fall books), and once again iHeart’s country “Bull” WBUL rules the field as it has for the last 23 books, though with less running room. It pulled a 12.3 share for last year’s Spring 2014, a 10.9 last Fall and now a 9.9. Top 40 sister “Kat” WLKT pounces to its best share since Fall 2003, 4.7-5.7-8.3. Third is Lynn Martin’s urban “107.9 the Beat” WBTF boasting an eight-year high (5.8-5.5-7.0), and fourth is iHeart’s classic rock WKQQ (5.4-4.5-6.9). With last Fall’s move from classic hits to classic rock by Lynn Martin’s WBVX, Lexington is a rare market with two stations imaging themselves as classic rock. So WKQQ’s fourth with that 6.9, and “Classic Rock 92.1” WVBX is up 2.2-2.9-3.2. The leading talk-based station is iHeart’s talk WLAP, 4.7-3.0-3.4. But for Cumulus talker WVLK (4.3-3.7-2.0), this is its lowest share in history. iHeart runs an urban format named “Wild” on a translator, and that’s WLKT HD2 (2.0-1.2-1.8).
Melbourne-Titusville-Cocoa – a lead change, with local owner Horizon Broadcasting’s classic hits “Beach 98.5” WSBH dropping to second (6.1-6.9-6.5). That’s due to the surge by to a nine-year high by iHeart’s AC “Lite Rock” WLRQ (5.5-5.3-8.7). Third is iHeart’s top 40 “Kiss” WFKS (2.7-4.4-4.0), and from there we might as well list the other three stations that are shown under Nielsen’s subscriber-only policy – Cumulus’ fourth-place CHR “A1A” WAOA (5.0-4.7-3.8), tied with country sister “Nash” WHKR (5.0-3.1-3.8) and iHeart’s talk WMMB (4.9-3.8-3.6). Once again, Cumulus all-sports “The Fan” WSJZ doesn’t make the book.
Augusta, GA – Nine straight wins for Beasley’s “Kicks 99” WKXC (12.0-8.8-9.9). Then come four stations owned by iHeart, the only other subscriber. Urban “Power 107” WPRW is second with a five-year high (6.4-6.7-7.2), followed by AC WBBQ (9.4-7.3-6.8), urban AC “Kiss” WKSP (8.1-7.3-5.7) and country WSCG “G105.7” WSCG (2.9-4.8-5.5). Beasley’s talk WGAC (5.0-5.8-5.1) is the leading talk-based station.
Fort Wayne – Sarkes Tarzian and Adams are the only subscribers here (none of the Dille family stations like talk WOWO are shown, for example). Sarkes Tarzian-owned classic hits “Fun 101.7” WLDE (7.2-8.0-7.9) apparently maintains its lead, followed by Adams’ classic rock WXKE (4.5-7.4-6.6) and sister country “US 93.3” WBTU (6.1-5.9-5.2).
Roanoke-Lynchburg – Mel Wheeler Inc. again has the top four stations in the rankings, impressively led by a couple of double-digit stations. Those are country “Star” WSLC with its fifteenth straight win (13.5-11.6-13.2), and urban AC “Vibe” WVBE-AM/FM (7.7-7.9-10.1). That’s an all-time high for the Vibe. Next there’s top 40 WXLK (6.8-6.4-7.9) and AC “Q99” WSLQ (7.1-8.3-7.3. iHeart’s “Rock of Virginia” WROV shows up in fifth place, 7.0-6.3-4.7.
Worcester – iHeart’s adult contemporary WSRS pulls back from its worst topline share since 1973, 10.5-7.3-9.2. Second is Entercom’s rock WAAF/WAFF (6.3-7.5-6.8) and third is Cumulus hot AC WXLO (5.7-5.1-6.2). Local iHeart talker WTAG is shown next (4.5-5.0-4.4) – but remember that most of the spill-in Boston stations are invisible to us.
Atlantic City-Cape May has just two subscribers, Gary Fisher’s Equity and Townsquare Media. #1 is Townsquare’s AC WFPG (7.4-6.5-7.6). It’s closely followed by Equity’s rhythmic “Buzz” WZBZ, with its best share since Fall 2010 (6.2-6.2-7.3), and Townsquare’s “Cat Country 107.3” WPUR (7.4-5.9-7.1). Fourth is Equity’s top 40 WAYV (8.5-7.5-6.8) and then urban AC sibling WTTH (4.9-4.0-5.3).
Muncie-Marion, Indiana rewards Woof Boom’s hot AC WLBC (15.3-15.7-15.7) with its seventeenth win in a row. Next is Cumulus country “Nash 102.5” WMDH (11.9-10.0-10.2) and third (once again) is Woof Boom’s classic hits WERK (6.4-7.6-6.6).
Is Cumulus preparing to drop all-sports in Minneapolis and New Orleans? Lance Venta at the new Premium section of Radio Insight reports new domain registrations for names that would lend themselves to classic hip-hop (the Twin Cities) and alternative (NOLA). That would represent a further retrenchment away from sports for Cumulus, which partners with CBS in the CBS Sports Radio Network. Check out Radio Insight here.
Princeton, Kentucky’s WPKY/1580 and WAVJ/104.9 “are not going dark,” says Steve Newberry of Commonwealth. He tells this NOW Newsletter that what a local TV station reported as that combo going silent on August 1 is actually something different. Due to the economic situation in that locale, Commonwealth will begin simulcasting out-of-market country WWKY Providence, Kentucky (97.7) on the Princeton signals. Steve’s already cut the sports programming at WPKY (it didn’t renew ESPN), and for the moment it’s now simulcasting sister AC “104.9 the Wave” WAVJ. But this weekend, they’ll both start running country with WWKY. Newberry says Princeton is “a nice, small community, and for the last three years, we have expressed our concerns to the leadership” there. Newberry has looked for a buyer and found some interest, but “nobody has stepped up to the plate.” Steve says “We want the community to have radio service, but it’s not feasible” to keep going with two separately-programmed stations, in the current circumstances. But he’s not taking them silent.
Duke Wright’s Midwest Communication buys a translator in Sheboygan as a companion for news/talk WHBL/1330, its longtime AM that runs 5,000 watts daytime/1,000 watts when the stars are twinkling over Wisconsin. The translator comes from Idaho-based Clark Parrish of Edgewater Broadcasting, and it’s the construction permit for a 250-watter at 101.5 named W268BR. Midwest is paying the $34,000 purchase price in cash.
In historic Santa Fe, a smooth jazz “Oasis” translator is fed by another translator in Albuquerque, which in turn rebroadcasts an AM in Albuquerque. It’s unusual to see a translator rebroadcasting another translator like this. But it’s how things are already working via LMA, and now there’s a $20,000 purchase of the translator up in Santa Fe, which is K240EC at 95.9. Seller is William R. Sims and the buyer is Telebeeper of New Mexico (Dallas Vanderhoof). Both the translator down in ABQ (K279BP at 103.7) and the associated AM (KOAZ Isleta at 1510) are owned by Martha Whitman. The whole collection is marketed as “103.7 the Oasis and 95.9 Santa Fe,” here.
Lay-Catholic Real Presence Radio, based in Grand Forks, buys its eighth full-power station, and it’s in Bemidji, Minnesota. Several years ago Edward P. De La Hunt bought the construction permit for what’s now WBKK Wilton (820) from his father for $30,000, and now the station is sold to Real Presence Radio for $225,000 cash. It will be converted to non-commercial operation and will shed its current news/talk/oldies format, becoming a sister to stations such as Catholic-teaching KWTL Grand Forks/1370. Real Presence owns six stations and two translators, and is waiting to close on Rapid City-market KQFR/89.9, which is taking new calls of KJRC.
Kurt Hanson wonders if Voltair is compensating for yearly drops in AQH ratings, respectfully responding to consultant Randy Kabrich’s Monday morning “Are you smarter than a 5th Grader?” post about pre- and post-Voltair Nielsen AQH ratings in the PPM markets. Kabrich remains in the Skeptic camp about the ability of the Voltair audio processor to produce potent swings in the monthly numbers. Kurt Hanson at AccuRadio and the RAIN Newsletter can’t help putting his own calculator to work (he used to run the AccuRatings service) and calls Randy’s work “a smart, impressive piece of research.” Namely, that AQH ratings (not shares, a different measure) have barely moved between June 2014 and June 2015. But Kurt says “Radio’s AQH rating has been declining every year for the past couple of decades, about 1% per year during the ’90s and ’00s, and with the decline increasing to about 5% in this decade.” He says “in the year of Voltair, that suggests that Voltair devices may have had a 5% positive effect on AQH ratings.” Read Hanson’s piece in RAIN here.
“Radio’s new youth format is discovered in Anaheim at Vidcon,” says researcher Dave Van Dyke. Vidcon drew not just the stars of YouTube channels, but also mainstream media like NBC-TV’s Jimmy Fallon and ABC-TV’s Jimmy Kimmel. They want to bask in the glow of online stars who appeal to millennials, and Van Dyke says “I found enough Internet radio stars at Vidcon in two days” to provide content to “a radio station with the courage to do something different.” He says “money follows these kids, and an advertiser base in both audio and video would exist from Day 1.” Read more from Vidcon here.
Javier Salas resigns his on-air news/hosting job at SBS-owned regional Mexican “La Ley 107.9” WLEY Chicago for a higher calling – running for Congress. Chicagoland Radio & Media says Javier is also resigning from writing a weekly column for the Chicago Tribune’s “Hoy!” and from his role as a commentator on KM Communications-owned WOCK television. He’s hoping all of that plus his previous 11 years doing mornings at Univision’s regional Mexican “La Tremenda” 1200” WRTO will help him in the primary fight against Fourth House District incumbent Luis Gutierrez – who’s held that seat since 1993. Javier Salas has already filed with the Federal Election Commission. He was born in Mexico and became a U.S. citizen in 2003 – and one of the issues he speaks out about is immigration reform.
Alex Brandon advances at American General Media from sales manager of the Durango/Four Corners cluster to GM. He’d been a seller at AGM’s cluster in Albuquerque until early 2014 when he transferred to Durango and stations like top 40 “99X” KKDG and rock KRWN/92.5. Now AGM Regional Manager Bill Kruger says Alex has been promoted to general manager for the Durango stations, and will “manage the operational duties of related local business interests and retain his role as sales manager.” Alex represents the third generation of Brandons at American General Media.
Before there was Tinder - A NOW Reader says “Too many people are still alive to use names, but I once worked with a guy who left our station to program in another market. Let’s call him ‘Harry.’ He took along one of the people he’d hired at our station, a woman, and they soon got married. But that didn’t last long and they got divorced. So Harry came back to our station, and before long, he was living with the girlfriend of one of our other jocks, and soon they got married. That’s marriage #2 for him, around a radio station he was working at. That union lasted less than 18 months, and then she moved back in with her previous boyfriend, the morning guy. You guessed it - then they got married.” Remind you of social complications/hookups/breakups at your own station? Email “You Can’t Make This Up” – Tom@RTK-Media.com.
Take 2 from yesterday’s “You Can’t Make This Up” about Skip Joeckel’s story about the long-ago auto accident that knocked out some teeth, just before the start date of his first on-air radio job. We ran the wrong picture of the man who’s now got plenty of teeth, running Colorado-based Talk Shows USA. Here’s a current pic of Skip, who writes (comedically) in a continuation of the lisp that radio listeners at KSGM in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri heard back at his debut – “Mither Taylor...Thhanks for running thhat thtory about me going on the radio with no teethh, but the photo nexth to the thtory wathent me. Here's a newer photo of me withh my wife Joyth - the girl who was withh me in the accthident.”
Nielsen and SiriusXM both report their latest quarters today and each has particular challenges. We don’t expect Nielsen to address the Voltair controversy in the radio ratings, but you never know, when the analysts get into live Q&A. For SiriusXM, there could be questions about talent – like Howard Stern – and how much subscribers will keep growing. See you back first thing tomorrow morning with coverage of both conference calls - Tom