|Final gavel at the FCC auction
Bidding for a new West Palm Beach FM reaches $2,015,000 in the just-completed FCC auction.
Nicholas Robinson bid that much for a new Class A, and it was by far the largest amount put on the board for Auction 94. In fact, just 11 of the 93 construction permits went for at least $100,000, and after the Robinson bid, you go down to the $452,000 bid by Denise Esserman for a new C3 licensed to St. Simons Island, Georgia. While $449,000 won a Class A in Silver Springs Shores, Florida (for Ricardo Arroyo). $254,000 won a new A at Mecca, California for Sunnylands Broadcasting (Seattle-area Gregory Smith). From there – Lotus gets a new A licensed to Greenfield, CA for $182,000. Jeff Warshaw at Connoisseur can add a Class A in Erie, for $167,000. As R.J. Quianzon observes at CommLawBlog.com, there were some bargains to be had. But if you back out the $2 million West Palm deal, the average winning bid was lower than in last year’s Auction 93. Nineteen of the available CPs didn’t attract a a single bid. That says something about the market, doesn’t it? The Commission is still finalizing results, but there’s a lot to be gleaned – and some interesting names, like Robert E. Lee – from the Auction 94 home page here.
The Rush-Cumulus “blame game” happened on Politico, too.
Yesterday’s NOW lead story was based on the “Rush whisperer” from the Limbaugh camp, leaking comments to the New York Daily News, about Rush’s unhappiness about being blamed for revenue problems at Cumulus. Turns out there was also some anonymous whispering to Dylan Byers at Politico, – and it pushes a bit further into “Rush could leave” territory. Here’s the “source” – “It’s a very serious discussion, because [Cumulus CEO Lew] Dickey keeps blaming Rush for his own revenue problems…It’s not a single-show issue…it’s a failure of the entire station.” The source points out that Rush’s ratings are often very strong. Though you could respond that the advertiser blowback Rush triggered in late February 2012 with the Sandra Fluke “slut/prostitute” remarks spread beyond his show and has affected much of talk radio. Rush’s Premiere Networks deal with Cumulus is up at the end of the year.
Media Matters hasn’t gone away – it’s still contacting advertisers about Limbaugh.
One group head says “This continues to be a struggle for many Rush affiliates since the Sandra Fluke incident, and it’s because groups like Media Matters keep it alive in some markets. I’m aware of one large-market Rush station where as soon as a new client goes on the air, Media Matters organizes calls to the advertiser, talking about the Sandra Fluke thing.” As for what’s in Rush Limbaugh’s head, with this new offensive - he’s probably shoring up his negotiating position in future contract talks. He’s also probably hoping to get Lew Dickey to quit badmouthing the revenue problems at talk radio, when he does presentations to Wall Street (like this morning’s Q1 conference call). Lew has been careful not to mention Rush by name and so far Rush apparently hasn’t mentioned Lew on his show – but this could get heated. A poster on the New York Board of RadioDiscussions.com has another angle - “The truth is, many of these stations have also reduced their commitment to local news by firing or laying off news staffers and that, too, will drive away listeners…Limbaugh, and conservative talk, does well in a lot of markets where the ownership continues a commitment to local news.”
Will Mike Huckabee keep hosting his daily three-hour radio show?
He tells Arkansas Business “Within the next month, I’ll decide if I want to continue it or not.” That will be the one-year anniversary of his deal with Cumulus Media Networks, which this newsletter has speculated might be done on a revenue-share basis. Huckabee says the calculation will be about “how long it will take to make [the show] what I call, hopefully, disgustingly profitable.” No doubt Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey will have Huckabee on his mind on this morning’s conference call. Huckabee says the radio gig’s taking up to ten hours of his workday, starting with a 4:30 am wakeup call (Central time). The former GOP presidential candidate and Arkansas governor now operates out of his “man cave” in Florida, outfitted as a radio studio. Huckabee says “I love doing the show...radio is so immediate” – and remember he started out in radio in his hometown and worked on the air during college, before turning to the ministry and then politics.
Nielsen finds a way to help pay for Arbitron – it sells its “Expositions” unit for $950 million cash.
Who knew that Nielsen owned a division that puts on trade shows and conferences for the jewelry business, photographers and others? Strategically, Arbitron’s a much better fit for Nielsen than its tradeshow expo business, which it previously announced was for sale. Two months ago (March 11 NOW Newsletter), the Wall Street Journal said Nielsen had “hired Credit Suisse to find a buyer for Nielsen Expositions,” and there was speculation the division could fetch up to $1 billion. They pretty much got their price, at $950 million, from Toronto-based private equity firm Onex. Nielsen Expositions produces “more than 65 business-to-business tradeshows and conference events each year across nine diversified end-markets,” say the companies. Nielsen Expositions did revenues of about $183 million last year on very nice margins – adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of $97 million, and cap-ex (capital expenditures) of about $2 million. Even better – Nielsen CFO Brian West tells yesterday’s conference call that it’s a tax-free transaction.
“We’ll be able to do the Arbitron deal with a lot less debt.”
Nielsen’s Brian West orients investors to the impact of cutting loose the trade-show/conference unit – “we’ll need to raise $950 million less debt” to swing the $1.3 billion purchase of Arbitron. If they’d bought Arbitron and kept Expositions, year-end leverage might’ve been about 3.9-times cash flow. Instead, it will be more like 3.5-times. Shareholders immediately warmed up to the sale. Nielsen stock (“NLSN”) finished up about 1% yesterday, gaining 38 cents to $36.02. The sale to private-equity firm Onex should close in the second quarter, though there’s a built-in termination fee of $61.75 million if it doesn’t happen. Remember that Nielsen is owned by a collection of private equity firms, including KKR, Blackstone Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners (which also owns a big chunk of Clear Channel).
Speculation about Clear Channel’s direct deals with labels – 1% cut of revenue for airplay, 3% for online.
That’s from Helienne Lindvall in Digital Music News, who may have answered a question that’s had folks in both radio and the record biz chasing their tails. Namely, what the heck are the terms being cut by CEO Bob Pittman? Lindvall says that last year’s groundbreaking deal with Scott Borchetta at Big Machine Records and the ones since then look like this – “In return for getting royalties for airplay, rumored to be around 1% of revenue, the labels agree to bypass [not-for-profit clearinghouse] SoundExchange and so cut their online royalty rates to what's rumored to be around 3% of revenue.” The direct deals give the labels (including Daniel Glass’ Glassnote and DashGo) at least a taste of a performance royalty, with the 1% payment. Lindvall further speculates that “perhaps Clear Channel expects that the days of getting a free ride when it comes to terrestrial airplay are numbered, and it would rather set its own rate before one is enforced by a rate court.” To that end, Clear Channel is “understood to be approaching even more labels.” Thanks to the folks at Kurt Hanson’s RAIN Newsletter for turning up the story about what Clear Channel might be hiding inside those confidential deals.
More music discovery muscle for Spotify – it buys the Tunigo app.
Tunigo is “focused on mood- and theme-based playlists, and it’s pretty good,” says Peter Kafka at AllThingsD. It fits with the new emphasis that Internet music companies are placing on curation – helping the user find something fresh that he or she might enjoy. Spotify began in Sweden and that’s also the home country of Tunigo, whose 20 employees in that country will work for Spotify in either Sweden or New York. Peter Kafka says the current Tunigo app for Spotify and its iPhone app “will keep running, but presumably Spotify’s new hires will be put to work on Spotify’s main service, which has 24 million users and six million paying subscribers.” That’s one of the differences between Spotify and the much larger Pandora – Spotify’s more keen to enlist subscribers at one of its two paid tiers.
Jacobs Media TechSurvey9 – Radio’s “secret sauce” is the ability to connect on preferred platforms.
After all – other media don’t have broadcast radio as a broad platform, right? Among the key findings from the online survey with input from 78,000 radio listeners to 264 stations in 12 different formats – “Radio is making the transition to digital,” says Fred Jacobs. Recalling their last week of listening, 14% of participants said they’d listened on computer/mobile platforms or other digital sources. And yes, there’s a difference by age – “the younger the generation, the more reliance there is on digital platforms to enjoy broadcast radio.” “AM/FM Radio still matters” to the respondents, who want those familiar radio choices available in their cars. Jacobs finds that “Pandora is a big player” – “by far the most popular pure-play Internet option.” But its commercials are “cited by a growing number of listeners," as irritants. The digital dashboard is getting crowded, with 11% of respondents driving vehicles that have a digital system like the Ford Sync. Finally, Facebook is a monster, but Jacobs found “strong pockets of users for secondary social platforms” like Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram. Pinterest shows “incredible strength among women.” Jacobs will be sharing format-specific results in a series of webinars starting with country radio on May 14. They’re free for stations that bought data from last year’s TechSurvey8. More about TechSurvey9 – with graphics like the “Media Usage Pyramid” – here.
Formats and branding –
• Tampa’s “Sports Animal” grows an FM signal, as Clear Channel supplements the low-dial 620 AM signal of WDAE (5,600 watts daytime, 5,500 watts at night) with a ride on somebody else’s translator. Pinellas Park-licensed 95.3 is owned by Radio Training Network, and it’s apparently being leased by Clear Channel and fed by a Clear Channel HD Radio multicast signal. The news about the addition of the 250-watt translator was quickly discerned by folks on the Tampa Board of RadioDiscussions.com. CBS Radio has been knocking at WDAE’s door with “98.7 The Fan” WHFS-FM, as well as the original CBS all-sports station there, the 1010 AM now called WHFS.
• Ft. Myers has “More,” with hot AC WINK-FM downshifting a bit to AC, taking new branding as “96.9 More FM.” The website starts you out with Adele. (Though it doesn’t mention the airstaff that changed, such as departed market veteran Gina Birch.) It would be nice to give you the latest ratings comparisons, but the McBride family trust that owns WINK-FM, news WINK (1200) and WINK-TV (plus Spanish news/talk WNPL/1460 and Spanish contemporary “Latino 97.7” WTLQ) doesn’t subscribe to Arbitron. Michael Hayes serves as program director and Wayne Simons is the VP/GM of Fort Myers Broadcasting Company. The Tampa Board of RadioDiscussions.com picked up on yesterday’s “thing of the past” stunting and the 10am conversion to “More.” Check out the website and listen here.
• New country “Kix” at 92.1 gives Bakersfield’s KUZZ-AM/FM (550/107.9) some competition. “Kix Country” emanates from Lotus, which drops classic hits “Max FM” KVMX (92.1) and aspires to pry away some listening from the KUZZ stations that are still in the hands of Buck Owens’ family. The KUZZ combo clobbered the competition with a 10.5 share (age 12+) in the Winter Arbitron, while KVMX managed a 1.5. But let’s be cognizant of the different technical facilities. KVMX is a Class A (4,200 watts at 397 feet) versus not one but two signals from Owens One – Class B KUZZ-FM (6,000 watts at 1,365 feet) and KUZZ (5,000 watts fulltime at 550 AM). Here’s the lineup from Lotus GM Greg Holcomb – Premiere-syndicated Bobby Bones, 5-9am. Former “Max” personality Mel, 10am-noon. Bakersfield veteran Anne Kelly, noon-3pm. Texas country personality Kris Winston, 3-6pm. Then Cumulus Media Networks’ CMT Radio Live with Cody Alan, 6-11pm.
• Reno’s new “106.3 Pop FM” is rhythmic AC, on the Lovelock, Nevada frequency that’s just been moved closer to Reno, still broadcasting from northeast of the market. Scranton-based Shamrock Communications will employ an on-channel booster for KWNZ, right in Reno. “Pop FM” is the fourth and last of the new stations Shamrock has rolled out in Reno. This one is the former KZHD, now sporting the market’s heritage KWNZ call letters. The Nevada Board of RadioDiscussions.com greets the new “Pop” – whose website is here.
Steckline owes a total of $27,000 for violations at two Kansas AMs.
In the case of KYUL Scott City (1310), the visiting FCC agent couldn’t locate a main studio, but finally did track down the station’s public file – at an insurance agency. (It didn’t have any documents dated after 2009.) The main studio and public file violations will cost Steckline Communications a $20,000 fine, as you can see in the Notice of Apparent Liability here. Over in Garden City, Kansas, sister KIUL (1240) had a fencing problem when the FCC toured the transmitter site. As the NAL says, “The agent observed a section of the fence surrounding the structure lying on the ground with weeds growing through the planks. Although there also was a perimeter fence surrounding the property, it was not locked during the day and was not intact, as one section of the perimeter fence also lay on the ground.” Steckline says it was forced to make temporary repairs following a recent storm, and that the agent saw the damaged temporary fencing. On that one, Steckline owes the baseline amount - $7,000.
A high-powered $9,000 fine for a low-power FM in Gainesville, Texas. The station is Spanish KYLP-LP at 101.5, and when an agent from the FCC’s Dallas office showed up to investigate an unrelated complaint, there was something missing – any sign of equipment for the Emergency Alert System. None was ever installed and of course the station hadn’t been maintaining the required EAS logs. That ups the fine from the baseline $8,000 to $9,000, payable by Iglesia Cristiana Ebenezer. Check the Notice of Apparent Liability here.
You can tell it’s almost Mother’s Day – “Pro Flowers” zooms to #4 on the Media Monitors list.
Pro Flowers from Provide Commerce didn’t make the rankings the previous week, but now is ahead of everybody except the usual trifecta of Home Depot, Geico and McDonald’s. That puts Pro Flowers ahead of AutoZone(10-5), AT&T Wireless (5-6), State Farm (6-7), O’Reilly Auto Parts (15-8), Advance Auto Parts and SK Energy. If you’re thinking “where are the carmakers and dealers?” – Darn good question. The first one, Ford Lincoln Mercury, doesn’t occur until #25 on the Media Monitors ranking. Carmax is down at 47 and Nissan’s at 50.
Backyard Broadcasters sells its Elmira-Corning and Olean, New York stations to Jim Leven and Bruce Mittman of Community Broadcasters. So Leven and Mittman add more stations in upstate New York – though these Southern Tier markets aren’t quite as “upstate” as their current holdings in Watertown and Ogdensburg, near the Canadian border. Leven and Mittman are backed by Northwood Ventures, and here are their acquisitions – in Elmira-Corning, CHR “Wink 106” WNKI, a Class B licensed to Corning. “100.9 Big Pig” WPGI, a Class A licensed to Horseheads. Another Horseheads station, talk WWLZ at 820 (4,100 watts when the sun’s out and 850 watts at night). Classic rock “WINGZ 104.9” WNGZ, Montour Falls, an A that uses Bob & Tom and Alice Cooper. And an AM that simulcasts with “WINGZ” – WRCE Watkins Glen (880 watts fulltime at 1490). A hundred miles west in Olean, Backyard’s selling “Sizzlin’ Country, 95.7 The Pig” WPIG, a Class B FM along with oldies WHDL, running 1,000 watts at 1450. Broker – Kalil & Co.
In Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a storm-silenced AM and translator are sold to satisfy some debts of the former owner’s estate. Jerome Hughey died in 2007, and then his son and heir passed away. Now Steve Stringer of Westport, Connecticut-based Sage Communications is taking over 3,200-watt daytimer WIZK, Bay Springs (1570) and its associated FM translator at 97.7 (W249AO, Hattiesburg). A recent request for Special Temporary Authority filed on behalf of WIZK says “the massive storm which went through that part of the country took out the station’s transmitter.”
With the “low aggregate profitability” of the current stations in Saskatoon, is there room for another one? That’s what Canadian regulator CRTC is asking, after getting persistent filings from one party who’s asking for a new commercial license. That often triggers an open invitation from the regulator asking whether other parties are interested. In this case, the CRTC requests comments about “the radio market’s ability to support new radio stations, and whether it should issue a call for applications for new stations.” Saskatoon’s in the province of Saskatchewan, and it’s the 17th largest metro in the country. Read the CRTC “notice of consultation” here. Comments are due May 31.
“Media companies employ seven of the top 20 highest-paid chief executives” – and you can partially blame Sumner Redstone. He’s famous for richly compensating top executives like Les Moonves at CBS ($60.2 million last year in cash, stock and options) and Philippe Dauman of Viacom ($33.4 million). David Carr says in the New York Times that CBS and Viacom “can pretty much do as they wish,” since Redstone controls them both. But - what Redstone and a few others do can “inflate pay for the rest of the industry.” Academic Charles Elson at the University of Delaware calls it “the leapfrog effect…The other guys get paid so much that even the executives that run less closely held companies benefit.”
Why is Aereo back in court? To block CBS from filing additional suits as it adds markets. The tiny-antenna company (they use thousands of mini-antennas) that aims to sell you mobile access to your local TV signals for $8 a month thinks big, and seeks a judgment to prevent CBS from filing lawsuits as it expands beyond New York to Boston – and then other places. That’s from Bloomberg, which quotes Aereo arguing that “CBS shouldn’t be allowed to seek ‘do-overs’ in other courts.”
“The future of Montreal’s [all-sports TSN radio station] dominates the hearing” over the proposed multi-billion dollar deal between Bell Media and Astral Media. That’s from the Toronto Star, which says Bell had a plan to keep from divesting TSN 690 CKGM – converting it to a French-speaking all-sports outlet, thus staying within the local ownership limits of the CRTC regulator. But the Star says “an outpouring of outrage from English-speaking fans prompted the revised proposal.” That where Bell seeks a waiver of the rules – but at the opening of a week-long hearing about the deal that mostly revolves around Astral’s TV assets, one CRTC Commissioner suggested that Bell keep CKGM and spin off something else in Montreal – a plan Bell doesn’t like. It definitely shows the passion of sports radio fans.
Brian Kramp is MIA from mornings on Milwaukee’s alternative “Sounds Different” WLUM (102.1), after seven years. The Journal Sentinel reports that the “Kramp and Adler” show disappeared from the website, Facebook and Twitter. It’s not clear what happened to Jon Adler. PD Jacent Jackson says the Milwaukee Radio Alliance station is going with a more-music morning show for the rest of the week, after seven years of Kramp and Adler.
Rick Dees debuts in San Francisco (on Royce’s “92.7 The Revolution” KREV), Las Vegas (sister “104.3 Now FM” KFRH) and Palm Springs (a third Royce station, KRCK at 97.7). They’re all CHR stations owned by Ed Stolz of Royce International Broadcasting, who signs with Compass Media Networks for Rick’s services in those three markets.
Behind closed doors - A third story in this vein, from another top-25 market. The NOW reader says "As a busy account executive, I would occasionally stop in at the sales office on a Saturday morning to catch up on paperwork and de-clutter my desk. When I arrived one Saturday, expecting to be the only one there, I heard some noises and laughing coming from behind the General Sales Manager's closed office door. About 20 minutes later, I saw my married GSM and the also married (to someone else) media director from the ad agency upstairs emerge looking somewhat disheveled and surprised to see me. I can only assume that my manager 'took one for the team' to get on a piece of business. I later discovered that my LSM (married as well) had a similar arrangement with one of the media buyers. What was upper management's position on all of this? Turns out that the GM (married) was keeping it a little closer to home. He would occasionally close his door for what I can only conclude was a motivational session with one of the female AE's from our sister station. All three managers ended up divorced within the next year. The LSM and GSM eventually moved on to other relationships. But I hear that the GM married the AE from the sister station, and they are still together." Remind you of a true radio story at a station you know of? Write it down and email Tom@RTK-Media.com.
We’re six months old, and growing every day. This NOW Newsletter launched just before Election Day last November, and with your support, and that of our advertisers, we keep delivering the daily buffet of news, context and a funny story or two (“You Can’t Make This Up”). Thanks for telling a colleague or co-worker about us. And remember the NOW classified section when you’ve got a sudden vacancy to fill, and think of our highly engaged readership if you’ve got a business or service to advertise. For that, email our Kristy Scott - Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. See you back tomorrow - Tom