|Auction Fever begins today
131 potential new FM stations cross the auction block today.
As you’ve been reading here, while the construction permits aren’t at the quality level you would’ve seen five or ten years ago, a surprising number of bidders qualified to bid on all 131. Nobody would actually do that, but seeing Entercom in the ranks of the “131 bidders” is unusual. Of course “K-Love” parent Educational Media Foundation is a “131 bidder.” Ditto for a past bidder in FCC auctions, Hispanic Target Media. There also dark horses like Jackman Holding Company, Miriam Media and Brett E. Miller, all qualified to bid on any of the CPs in the auction. Most paddle-holders are more selective - Larry Wilson of Alpha Media is interested in just three situations and Jeff Warshaw’s Connoisseur has just one market in mind. Auction 98 will likely run for well over a week, but first bids are due this morning. Check the Auction 98 Home Page to view the 131 construction permits and the qualified bidders, here. We’ll be following it for you.
Surprise - Scripps bets big on podcasting, buys Midroll Media.
Midroll talent Marc Maron landing President Obama for his “WTF” podcast was a home run – and now Scripps hopes that and the breakout “Serial” (not on Midroll) can show advertisers that podcasting is growing up fast. Scripps CEO Rich Boehne didn’t disclose the price of the Midroll acquisition, but the deal was significant enough for him to hold a conference call yesterday. Boehne (“BAY-nee”) and Midroll Media started conversations with last Fall, says The Hollywood Reporter. By May, Sachs and his team were visiting Scripps in Cincinnati. They felt the companies shared similar goals, and yesterday the five-year-old company was selling itself to TV/radio owner Scripps. Midroll began in 2010 was a comedy download service named Earwolf, started by Scott Aukerman and Jeff Ullrich. Last year it merged with The Mid Roll advertising network to become Midroll Media (named after the commercial in the middle of the show). Today, Midroll has over 200 podcasts such as “Nerdist” and “Startup,” its own ad network, and runs the Earwolf and Wolfpop comedy/topical culture services. Adam Sachs will continue managing Midroll from Hollywood – and radio folks at the Scripps radio stations will be wondering how Midroll fits in with what they do.
“First Light” host Dirk Van retires next week.
Was Dirk Van gently nudged to retire, as part of this week’s budget-driven moves at Westwood? At least one NOW reader believes that’s the case. He’ll be missed on “First Light.” He’s literally the only permanent host the early-morning “First Light” news and talk show has ever had. He’s endured those impossible hours for 26 years now, and has also anchored morning-drive newscasts and hosted “The Week In Review” for Westwood. His dad was NBC Network newscaster Lyle Van, but Dirk himself didn’t enter the profession until 1978. Westwood says he “traded a career in physical anthropology for broadcast journalism,” and was soon working in New York as a reporter at WCBS/880 and as news director at then-WHN/1050, which was acquired by Westwood. Among other honors, Dirk’s won an Edward R. Murrow Award, an International Radio Festival “Personality of the Year” award. Westwood EVP/News & Talk Bart Tessler says Dirk “has anchored NBC Radio News, Mutual News, Fox News and Westwood One News morning newscasts – how do you top that?” When Dirk finishes up a week from today, he’ll hand the mic over to Evan Haning, Evan’s mostly been based in Washington DC at WTOP, WRC and (until last year) CBS all-newser WNEW. Tessler’s internal memo says “This is a perfect back-to-the-future moment for Evan, who was a regular First Light guest host, in his previous tenure at Westwood One.” Evan takes up the dual load at First Light and morning drive news on August 11.
Are PPM stations unplugging their Voltair boxes? No way.
One pro who would know says “I believe the marching order going forward would be to ‘crank ’em up,’ at least until the fixes from Nielsen are in place and proven effective at leveling the playing field.” Nobody’s copping to using Voltair, so this is all Japanese Kabuki-style theater, where the players wear masks and costumes to cloak their identities and activities. The Telos/25-Seven-produced audio processor certainly feels like the week’s biggest news story in radio, and we continue to see radio divided into two camps. First is the True Believers. They point to the ratings spurt enjoyed by Jerry Lee’s AC WBEB Philadelphia/101.1 shortly after it (supposedly) patched in a Voltair processor several months ago. [An alternative way to read that is that “More FM” returned to historical levels.] The other Voltair camp is the Skeptics, who quickly latched onto what Nielsen said on Tuesday’s webinar – that basically, Voltair doesn’t do very much for U.S. stations, after you crank the signal through the PPM edit and attribution process. Consultant (and skeptic) Randy Kabrich just posted a new piece titled “Bargain.” It’s about a Who song that supposedly doesn’t encode well in the lab – but Kabrich says in the real world, it seems to do just fine, without Voltair. Read Kabrich here. There’s a growing third camp of people who could also belong to either the True Believers or the Skeptics – operators suspicious of how much proprietary station info Nielsen’s next-generation encoder will send back to the rating company.
To Voltair or Not to Voltair?
That is the question (with apologies to the Bard of Avon). Nobody’s worried about what is “nobler,” as Hamlet would say – does the darn thing work? Is it worth the $15,000 cost? And what should Nielsen and the industry be doing? Yesterday’s NOW invited feedback, and we got an earful of audio –
• “The free market system…is met yet again by those who believe that control is more important than innovation.” Buckley CEO Joe Bilotta says “If Voltair the product is purchased by any broadcaster on the value proposition that it will enhance their PPM ratings presence regardless of supporting data, then they are free to invest in that technology. This is a tech play, no more. Is it much different than purchasing or not purchasing the HD transmitter, in a belief that the fidelity of your AM/FM will be enhanced enough to warrant the investment? Nielsen should not be the governing body of what is housed in radio station control rooms. If the product purchased does not violate FCC compliance, then it is the 'bet' that the broadcaster has taken with their investment. If regulatory issues arise, that becomes a different argument. We are in an ever-changing technological environment. How long did anyone think it would take for a product like Voltair to come to market?”
• “I don't see Voltair as a means of gaming the system, I see it as more of a way to make a flawed encoding system work better.” Audio processing consultant Jay Walker says "Nielsen discloses that Voltair might make a difference in particularly noisy audio environments where the background noise is at a higher level than a station. One could easily understand how spoken word or high dynamic range formats would see an encoding benefit in such a listening environment. From the initial rollout of PPM, my concern as an engineer was keeping levels through the encoder as high and consistent as possible, to ensure a solid encode. I can hear who is using the device in this market, as there are some artifacts similar to picket-fencing and white noise noticeable in spoken word, and high dynamic range formats. But these artifacts are well worth it, ensuring that meters in the field properly credit a signal.”
• “Falling short of actually banning Voltair is tacit permission for Nielsen clients to continue to distort ratings by using Voltair." From a must-stay-anonymous major-market GM on Tuesday’s call - “Presumably they have don't want to open the can of worms on how much ratings distortion has actually already occurred. Nielsen merely said because of what they did find in the tests, they don't 'support' Voltair use. My takeaway? It’s permission to spend $15k per box to distort ratings and cheat advertisers. With the amount of boxes required to distort ratings on all available station streams, the iHearts and CBS's are the only ones who can afford to cheat. It's akin to a bank leaving its vault full of cash unlocked and open for their big customers, purposely not guarding it and turning off the security cameras - all while saying they don't 'support' stealing.”
• “The elephant in the room” - Consultant/researcher John Parikhal says “The short-term standoff around Voltair serves as a legitimate red herring (if there is such a thing) that allows all the parties involved to cheerfully ignore the elephant in the room. The elephant is the inadequacy of the PPM system itself. When PPM first appeared, it was clear that the samples were too small, especially in a world of increasingly micro-measured media. And, it was clear that the recruiting methodology was sub-optimal. Which is why it wasn’t accredited for a long time. However, broadcasters didn’t want to pay more for a better system. (Lowry Mays was famously proud of stating that he wanted to pay 'less.') And that’s why PPM is the way it is. Since no one was really complaining, Nielsen didn’t have to spend any time or money to improve the technical piece, either - which they have suddenly acknowledged they are going to do. I look forward to the next chapter.”
• “The PPM remains better than a paper diary,” says consultant Walter Sabo. He says “Hell, I pushed for it and am very happy it arrived. Radio execs, being far more flexible and scrappier than TV execs, looked for ways to compensate for the PPM shortcomings. This is nothing new. For decades, radio stations have added many complex boxes to their audio chains to make their signals louder, brighter, easier to hear. Those boxes caused no industry storms. I applaud Telos for coming up with one solution, the Voltair. Hopefully there will be more. Where are the ad agencies and sponsors? The purpose of ratings is to sell radio audiences to advertisers. If the audience is not being measured by the PPM properly, the loudest noises should be coming from Mindshare, OMD, Universal McCann. If Telos has invested in technology that compensates for the shortcomings of the PPM, Nielsen should say, 'Thank you.'” Read Sabo’s full blog entry. What’s your opinion about Voltair, PPM and Nielsen? Email Tom@RTK-Media.com.
Surveillance video ID’s a man who stole $19,000 worth of tickets from Alpha Media in San Antonio. KABB Television says Joseph Villanueva gained access to the building that houses top 40 KTFM/94.1 and other stations, and made off with tickets to concerts and other entertainment events. But Alpha was running a surveillance camera, and that helped police get a confession out of the suspect. So did Villanueva enjoy going to all those shows? No – he sold the tickets and pocketed the money.
Duke Wright’s Midwest Communications makes a double-switch in Fargo, at two of the stations Midwest bought from Jim Ingstad in 2013. One station now takes Duke’s own name. That’s a kind of coincidence connected with the country-legends format marketed by Envision Networks, working with format creator Kroeger Media. Midwest is already doing wide-playlist classic country “Duke” in Knoxville (on WDKW/95.7, the former rock WVRX). Now “Duke” has moved into Fargo, replacing the former AC “Mix 104.7” KMJO, a Class C1 licensed to Hope, North Dakota. Radio Insight narrates the other half of the double-switch - Midwest transfers the “Mix” format down to 101.9, bumping off “Rock 102” KRWK Fargo. Radio Insight recalls that both stations’ previous formats were changed around the same time in September 2013, when Midwest dropped variety hits on 104.7 and canned the news/talk on 101.9.
One state broadcaster association keeps pressing for an FM chip mandate from the FCC, and it’s the Paul Rotella-led New Jersey Broadcasters Association. Rotella writes FCC Chair Tom Wheeler that for reasons of public safety (in emergency conditions, Amber Alerts) and even national safety, the Commission should act. (Even if Congress won’t.) He tells Wheeler that “The NJBA respectfully renews its previous request that the FCC mandate that over-the-air radio chips be activated in all mobile and smart phones in the United States, so that FM radio is available to all who desire and would benefit from this proven, life-saving service.”
2015 NAB/RAB Radio Show in Atlanta to feature a new “Artist Spotlight Series” with live music from BMI artists such as Paul McDonald (September 30 at 3:15 in the Marketplace), Bonnie Bishop (same day, 5pm), Shawn Mullins (Thursday’s Advertiser Breakfast) and Michael Tolcher (10:30am Thursday at the Marketplace Coffee Break). We already knew that BMI songwriter Gavin DeGraw will be the entertainment for the NAB’s Thursday night Marconi show. Info and registration for the Radio Show here.
The latest Spring-book Nielsen diary markets -
Little Rock – “Alice” leads the market for the first time in station history. That’s Cumulus top 40 “Alice” KLAL, moving 6.7-6.6-7.4 with age 12+ AQH share. Second is a sister to Alice, urban “Power” KIPR (6.4-7.2-6.9), and then we get to the two stations tied for third. One is a sort of step-cousin to Alice. Urban AC “Legendary Soul” KOKY is held for Cumulus by the Last Bastion Trust. It moves 7.5-8.2-6.8. Now we get to the country stations, beginning with Heart’s classic country “Wolf” KMJX, 8.2-6.8-6.8. Fifth is iHeart’s country KSSN (6.5-7.7-6.3). Little Rock’s leading talk-based station is a guy-talk/sports outlet, Signal Media’s “103.7 the Buzz” KABZ (6.2-5.2-4.6). Cumulus talker KARN-FM, which has been seasoning in more local material, rises 3.3-2.6-4.3.
Des Moines – Three-way tie at the #1 spot, and the Winter-book champion, Cumulus’ “Nash 97.3” KHKI, gets jostled down to sixth place in a highly-compressed Spring book. The 12+ lead is shared by two Saga stations and one iHeart news/talker. The iHeart station, no doubt anticipating a vigorous 2016 Presidential campaign, is WHO. In the last three books, it’s moved from a 7.2 share last Fall to a 6.4 in the Winter book and now a 7.1 for Spring. The Saga winners are classic hits KIOA (6.9-6.4-7.1) and hot AC “Star 102.5” KSTZ (6.4-5.3-7.1). For Star, that’s its largest share since the Summer of 2004 and its share of the lead since Winter 1991, when it was KRNQ. For sister KIOA, this is the first taste of #1 it’s ever had in Des Moines. Fourth place goes to iHeart’s top 40 “Kiss” KKDM (6.2-7.0-6.8) and fifth to co-owned variety hits “Bus” KDRB (6.1-5.3-6.5). Sixth is Cumulus country “Nash,” 5.3-7.4-6.2. It’s an unexpected tumble for Saga’s rock “Lazer” KAZR (5.5-5.6-3.5).
Monterey – It’s now a 22-book win streak for iHeart’s rhythmic KDON (9.7-9.7-8.0). #2 is Entravision’s regional Mexican “Radio Tricolor” KLOK-FM (6.1-7.8-6.8), and then we run into a passel of Mapleton stations. In third place is AC KWAV (3.3-3.5-4.9), fourth is KPIG (adult alternative/alt-country/good-times) going 3.5-4.0-4.6, and fifth is top 40 KCDU (4.1-3.7-3.9).
Greenville-New Bern, NC – Still just two subscribing owners here, Beasley and Digity. #1 is once again Beasley’s urban “Kiss” WIKS (12.9-11.3-12.3). Digity has the next two stations, country WRNS (11.9-7.7-9.9) and top 40 “Bob 93.3” WERO (6.8-8.2-6.6). Beasley’s classic hits WNCT-FM holds onto fourth place, 7.0-6.8-5.5), and fifth is its classic rock sibling WSFL (4.1-5.0-5.3).
Columbia, SC – Last December, iHeart returned WVOC/560 to doing talk, and check the numbers since it dropped all-sports – a 0.5-share in the Fall book, a 3.0-share in the Winter book, and now a 4.9 for the Spring book that ran March 26-June 17. Note that the controversy over flying the Confederate battle flag over the state capitol didn’t begin until after the June 17 shooting-deaths in Charleston’s Mother Emanuel Church, so the Summer book should be particularly interesting for WVOC. It ranks #6 in the Spring book. This book makes 15 straight #1’s for Alpha’s urban AC “Big DM” WWDM (9.6-13.7-10.4). Next is iHeart top 40 WNOK (6.3-6.9-8.1) and third is Alpha’s urban “Hot 103.9” WHXT (5.8-5.3-6.5). iHeart’s country WCOS won’t have to live with that disappointing Winter book, improving 7.5-3.8-5.4. Cumulus has the #5 station, urban AC “Kiss” WLXC (6.1-6.9-5.1). Alpha’s 16-month-old hot AC “Q93.5” WARQ is up to its best share since Winter 2012, 2.2-2.7-3.2. The local “Nash Icon” representative is Cumulus-owned WOMG, 1.3-1.4-1.3.
Spokane – The classics are winning, both #1 classic rock KKZX and #2 classic hits KEYF. #1 with its best topline since Fall 2013 is iHeart’s KKZX, 6.8-6.0-7.8. Second is Mapleton’s “Key 101” KEYF-FM, 5.9-5.5-6.4. Third is the Winter-book champion, QueenB’s hot AC KZZU (5.4-6.7-5.4). QueenB should be particularly happy with the upward trajectory of rhythmic “Hot 96.9” KEZE, 3.8-3.4-5.2. It hasn’t been that high since Summer 2006. KEZE is tied in fourth place with sister “Coyote Country” KXLY-FM, 6.3-5.5-5.2. Right behind is Mapleton’s own country “Mountain” KDRK (4.5-5.7-5.1). Spokane’s leading talk-based station is iHeart’s twelfth-ranked news/talk KQNT, 4.5-4.8-2.9. (In last year’s summer book, KQNT pulled a 7.6 share.)
Springfield, MA – Saga’s not a subscriber in this market, so we don’t see stations like its “Rock 102” WAQY. Cumulus, iHeart and Entercom are the only subscribers, and only six stations are shown by Nielsen, so let’s list ’em all. #1 again is Cumulus AC WMAS-FM (6.5-9.5-9.3). Second is iHeart’s hot AC WHYN-FM (5.5-5.5-5.9), followed by sister country “Kix” WRNX (5.9-4.9-4.6) and talk WHYN (4.0-3.8-3.7). Fifth is Entercom’s all-sports WWEI (3.3-2.8-2.9) and sixth is iHeart’s own all-sports station, Hartford-market “97.9 ESPN” WUCS (0.7-0.5-0.7).
Wilmington, Delaware is the first of today’s two-book-a-year markets and since there are just four listed stations, let’s reel ’em all off. #1 is Beasley AC WJBR, going from a 6.2 last Spring to a 5.8 last Fall and now a 6.6 share for Spring. #2 is Delmarva’s news/talk WDEL-AM/FM, 2.1-2.1-3.4. (The station recently began simulcasting its 1150 AM on the former WJKS/101.7.) Third is iHeart’s country WDSD (3.5-2.4-3.3), and fourth is iHeart’s talk WILM, 1.8-1.4-1.4.
Myrtle Beach has a new leader, and it’s iHeart’s top 40 “Mix” WWXM, 7.6-7.6-7.8. Sister country “Gator” WGTR (7.6-8.6-6.9) falls into a tie for second place with Digity’s ascendant classic rocker “Wave 104.1” WYAV (5.5-5.5-6.9). That’s the best share for WYAV in 17 years, since Spring 1998. Fourth is Digity’s “Hot Talk” WRNN-FM (7.0-5.7-5.8) and then there’s a tie in fifth place between a pair of Cumulus stations. Those are urban AC “Kiss” WDAI (6.7-5.5-5.0) and classic hits “Sunny” WSYN (3.5-4.6-5.0).
Just before you drive up into the Texas Panhandle, there’s Littlefield, where classic country KZZN/1490 is sold for the second time in two years. In 2013, Cody West bought the 1,000-watt fulltime station for $350,000. Now he’s selling it to Monte Spearman’s High Plains Radio Network for $100,000. Spearman owns other Texas stations, and the July 10 NOW had the story about his High Plains Radio Network selling “Cowboy Radio” KWBY-FM Ranger, Texas (98.5).
Having just sold three Tulsa translators for $490,000, Jason Bennett turns around and buys the CP for another one for $120,000. For now, all we know is that Bennett will use this translator at 105.7 to rebroadcast Low Power FM “Jazz Tulsa” KJZT-LP at 90.1. That arrangement could change, because you’re free to switch originating stations. Bennett leads Screen Door Broadcasting, which recently filed to sell three translators in Tulsa – this same market – to Tyler Media for $490,000 (July 15 NOW). This time Bennett’s a buyer. Seller is Clark Parrish-run Edgewater Broadcasting in Twin Falls (a man who’s still got plenty more translators and CPs to sell). This just-sold beauty in Tulsa is the construction permit for K289CC, authorized for 250 watts at 105.7.
From the Credit-Where-Due Department, a couple of additions to yesterday’s stories. The sale document filed for Honolulu-market KUPA/1370 Pearl City merely states that “the seller has retained a broker” and doesn’t identify him or her. Turns out it’s Kozacko Media Services, for seller Broadcasting Corporation of America. And in the $230,000 sale of Lansing AM/translator combo KTGG/1540 and W284AH, Jon Yinger was the broker for both the seller (Spring Arbor University) and the buyer, West Central Michigan Media Ministries.
Pierre Bouvard says “Radio was the most effective [ad medium] at converting awareness into purchases” for Amazon Prime Day – and the Cumulus Chief Marketing has marshaled the evidence to prove it. Pierre finds that “of those exposed to radio ads, 52% made a purchase versus TV (39%) and online (48%).” Demo-wise, “18-34 year olds were the Engine of Amazon Prime Day.” Cumulus worked with Ipsos to “understand how advertising helped Amazon drive sales and reach its key demographic” – and you can read the research here.
David Field tells employees that “Entercom is #1 in ratings performance,” measuring ratings over the past two years. David’s Mid-Year Letter says the Philadelphia-based company is “actively investing in our future…in new markets, new brands and content, new staff positions, new tools and capabilities,” as well as the client-focused SmartReach Digital effort. Altogether, he believes that “Entercom is America’s best positioned radio broadcaster,” because “as the fourth-largest company in radio, we have the size and pure-play focus to compete effectively, further enhanced by our latest acquisitions” from Lincoln Financial Media. That puts Entercom into L.A., Atlanta, Miami and San Diego for the first time, and strengthens its hand in Denver. Read David’s Mid-Year Letter here.
Tom Calderone was a seasoned major-market radio PD before he crossed over to music TV – and for the last seven years he’s been the President of MTV Networks-owned VH1. That tenure has come to an end, with the L.A. Times printing a copy of his internal memo to staff – “I’m reaching out today because I am leaving the VH1 family.” No mention from Calderone about where he’s going next, or who will be leading VH1, the home of reality shows like “Love & Hip Hop” and “Basketball Wives.” Succeeding him (though not as president) is newly-named General Manager Chris McCarthy.
Bruce Sakalik departs as morning news anchor on Calvary Inc.’s news/talker in Pittsburgh, KQV/1410. Eric O’Brien posts on PBRTV.com that Bruce “left on his own, taking a new job with Comcast.” We don’t see much about KQV because its owner doesn’t subscribe to the Nielsen. Sakalik’s goodbye shift at KQV was last Friday.
Making modern technology work for you - A keep-me-anonymous NOW Reader says “I had done my regular afternoon shift and voice-tracked the last two hours, so I could go home, eat dinner and take care of chores before I had to go back at 7:15 pm to 'bored op' a local high school sporting event. I brought a small pocket FM radio with a speaker, and I had my cell phone with me that had remote access to our station's automation computer. The sports announcers always muted their mics going into breaks. Always - it was a rule they had, just in case the board op got called away. Well, about an hour into the game, nature calls me to sit down in the porcelain facilities. I bring my pocket FM tuned to our frequency and my smartphone with the station's remote access app pulled up, just in case. Sure enough, they call for a break and without missing a single beat or having any dead air, I hit the commercial break from my smartphone. Mics are muted at the game, then the announcers come back. I finish my business and go back to the studio. All is good (you thought there was going to be a disaster, didn't you?). No one knew how I did this until I told my PD. He laughed and told me 'Good job, great way to think on your feet.' Well, not exactly my feet.” Ready to share your own story with the industry? Email “You Can’t Make This Up” – Tom@RTK-Media.com.
Take 2 on yesterday’s story about the parents of a bullied teen in Pittsburg, Kansas who are using their lawsuit award money to buy a station. I mixed up the two stations being sold, so it’s the parents (the Nugents) buying classic rock KSEK-FM/99.1, and Jerry Tibbetts-run Triple T Plus Inc. which is buying the AM, sports KSEK/1340. Seller of both stations is SKIL, the Southeast Kansas Independent Living Resource Center.
Pandora reports its Q2 results today after the market close. Expect questions from analysts about the new Apple Music service and other rivals. They’ve had an effect on Pandora stock, which is trading at its lowest levels in two years. Want to place a classified ad, to fill a sudden vacancy at your company? Your contact is Kristy Scott. She’s at Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. See you back first thing tomorrow - Tom