|Talk the talk
Rush Limbaugh says the chatter is “just a public business negotiation.”
So out in the open, it’s Cumulus-versus-Clear Channel, Round umpty-something. Limbaugh says “I want to get something out of the way here at the top” of yesterday’s syndicated show. And that is – “nothing is going to change.” Reading between the lines, maybe something is, but Rush says “You are going to be able to get this radio program on as many if not more radio stations down the road than it is on now.” Notice that he doesn’t say “the same stations.” He does say that “negotiations have been taken public by one side of this when I thought it was done, I thought it was over with.” One source who’s previously dealt with the various parties tells this NOW Newsletter that “Cumulus can be unpredictable.” The Cumulus-Clear Channel deal for Limbaugh and Sean Hannity isn’t up until the end of the year, so there’s plenty of time for Secretary of State John Kerry to intervene. Just kidding – this one might take Kerry plus Hillary Clinton plus Henry Kissinger. The Dickeys have to be weighing the future market value of Limbaugh’s show, given the advertiser headwinds, against their situation if they put their own less highly-rated talent on, and keep their avails.
Clear Channel’s Plan B must be coming out of the drawer.
Realistically, it’s the very largest markets that count the most, in the syndication of a Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. Clear Channel’s $30 million Plan B in New York was buying talk WOR (710) from the Buckley family. So that switch (from Cumulus’ WABC/770) is pretty easy. And if Clear Channel could also grab the Yankees away from WCBS (880) at the end of this season, 710 could quit being a 1-share radio station. In Los Angeles, Clear Channel has long used Rush Limbaugh on its talk KFI (640). In Chicago, it would lose Cumulus-owned talk WLS (890), and it might need to go to a third party for a new affiliate. San Francisco’s no problem, as Clear Channel had already moved Rush from Cumulus-owned KSFO (560) to its own KKSF (910). Dallas could be interesting, losing WBAP-AM/FM (820/96.7). Houston’s covered with CC-owned KTRH (740). Philadelphia’s fine, with Merlin using Rush and Hannity on WWIQ (106.9). Atlanta’s fine, with Rush on Cox-owned WSB (750 plus its simulcast at 95.5). Detroit could get interesting. But you see the situation – in the very large markets, Clear Channel has its Plan B and probably Plan C. So it’s up to Cumulus – how much do they need Rush? Study the state-by-state list of Rush Limbaugh affiliates here. For a tough-love perspective, read Kyle Stock’s piece at Business Week, titled “Are Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity overpaid?”
Lew Dickey offers his Q2 results today – and may be asked about the Limbaugh problem.
Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey’s actually been circumspect with his public comments about the sales problem that followed Rush Limbaugh’s Sandra Fluke “slut” comments of late-Winter 2012. In a very general way, he’s addressed it with investors, who want to know what’s happening at some of the company’s most important stations. But Limbaugh’s been feeling attacked, as you saw again in yesterday’s comments. Rush said it’s all “inside baseball stuff and I would love to pass this on…but I must use proper business restraint here.” That’s no doubt how Lew is feeling, this morning – he must talk like a CEO. Cumulus stock (“CMLS”) slipped about 2% (nine cents) yesterday, closing at $3.95. The stock’s generally trading at its highest levels since Spring 2011. As for the other side of this contretemps – Clear Channel reports its latest quarterly numbers on Thursday afternoon.
Kidd Kraddick, a smoker, had three blocked coronary arteries, and probably died of cardiac arrest.
He was a chain smoker, says the Dallas Morning News, and he had an enlarged heart, which might’ve been revealed in a routine physical. The Dallas-based syndicated morning personality and entrepreneur was about to turn 54 and may not have known he had cardiac disease. He was stricken at last Saturday’s “Kidd’s Kids” charity golf tourney in the New Orleans area and was rushed to the nearby Ochsner Medical Center. The docs worked on him but couldn’t pull him back to life. Kraddick had taken a few practice swings that morning at the Timberlane Country Club, but complained of not feeling well (a classic possible symptom of heart problems, particularly for males). The Dallas Morning News says Kidd’s friend “Dr. Phil” texted Kidd, but didn’t get a reply – which was unusual. Kraddick had divorced in 2007 and had a daughter from the marriage. The Dallas paper says he was engaged, and Dr. Phil said “I’ve never seen him happier.” Meanwhile – On Monday, July 22, Kraddick’s crew coincidentally did a bit about their “deathbed confessions.” Some folks find it kind of spooky. It’s getting a lot of views on YouTube here.
Smoking out a problem – the client was actually “The Cigarette Outlet,” not “The Outlet.”
Airing spots like that will get you tangled up at the FCC, because it runs afoul of the “sponsorship ID” rule - not to mention the decades-old ban on advertising cigarettes on broadcast radio and TV. The Commission says that rock KLAQ, El Paso (95.5) “intentionally omitted the sponsor of the announcements…to avoid violating Section 73.4055,” about cigarette ads. Townsquare inherits this mess from predecessor Regent, and signs a consent decree to make a $15,000 voluntary contribution to the Treasury (not a fine), and to run an extensive compliance program. If there’s another problem at the stations, Townsquare must suspend the employee(s) involved and take disciplinary action “up to and including termination.” At a guess, KLAQ and sister sports KROD (600) aren’t the only American stations who’ve ever adjusted the name of a client to something more friendly-sounding. If anybody’s doing it now – and Regent got caught after somebody complained to the Commission – this would be a very good time to clean out the ashtrays.
Arrest follows a Facebook threat to a Georgia jock.
On the website for Beasley’s WGAC-AM/FM, Augusta, there’s a chance to ”like” afternoon talk host Austin Rhodes – but a 25-year-old man went the other way, and posted a threat there. The Columbia News-Times says the man “was charged with making terroristic threats and acts,” and was being held in the county detention center on $2,600 bond. The non-fan used the name “McBlacc Traptastic CG,” and said he’d slap Rhodes if he saw him. It was Rhodes himself who called the authorities about the posting, last Tuesday afternoon, before the beginning of his 3-6pm show on WGAC-AM/FM (580/95.1). As the paper says, “Rhodes posted on his own Facebook page that it is the policy of his employer [Beasley] to report threats to the authorities.”
American Public Media sells off its for-profit “Greenspring Media” publishing group.
Not disclosing the price or the terms of the sale to Michigan-based Hour Media is the kind of thing that really riles up critics of the Minnesota-based empire founded by Bill Kling. He always envisioned one or more separate divisions (some running for-profit) that would throw off money to support public radio. In a way, it’s just the kind of business model that some Republicans in Washington DC would applaud. But when he was running things years ago, Kling declined to make the details of the non-radio operations very transparent. That even led to calls in the Minnesota legislature to make Kling reveal his total income. That’s settled down now, especially after the $124 million sale of for-profit Rivertown Trading in 1998. (Rivertown produced catalogs like "Wireless" and "Signals," familiar to public media supporters.) Back to the present-day, where American Public Media Group sells Greenspring Media to Hour Media. The extensive list of magazine titles includes Minnesota Monthly, Midwest Home, RealFood, Drinks and “WHERE Twin Cities.” There’s also a stable of associated events, like Midwest Home’s Home Show and Luxury Home Tour. Regional Media Advisors repped seller American Public Media Group.
Syndicator Matt Smith turns out the lights at FoxRock – and explains why.
It’s a rare look behind the curtain of radio syndication, a job that was never easy, even before consolidation. Of course some syndication clients have always harbored what Matt calls “unrealistic expectations.” But today’s business environment includes the reality that “two major ownership groups are not allowing their stations to carry outside programming on barter, demanding cash for clearance.” Matt says “many [other] stations are cutting back on barter.” That’s hard on syndicators. Another thing – “around 2005, I started to see a phenomenon happen, mostly in talk and sports radio: The PDs weren’t programmers any longer. Many of them were ops guys or sales guys who got the title through consolidation or HR fear.” Smith also had some specific hassles, like clients who bounced checks or even told a car financing company that Matt’s syndication company had bought their car. Smith says tomorrow’s shutdown of FoxRock Communications is “because the traditional model for syndication is no longer viable for me.” He name-checks many of the folks he’s worked with, including Hub Arkush and Pro Football Weekly, Brad and Debbie Saul, Chris Witting at Syndication Networks, Marcus Rowe of Nectar Media, and programmer/consultant Tom Bigby. That’s a partial list, from somebody whose next job is probably outside of radio – but who says “the idea of not being in this industry after 15 years is a bit odd.”
Consolidation works for NYC’s urban WBLS (107.5) – revenue’s up 76%.
In fact, GM Deon Levingston says they’re “on track” to hitting the topline revenue numbers WBLS did in the diary days, pre-PPM. That’s possible because the field of competitors has shrunk, with Emmis dropping urban AC “Kiss 98.7” WRKS last Fall and leasing the signal to ESPN. That left WBLS in a far stronger position. Matthew Flam in Crain’s New York has the Miller Kaplan revenue figures for the first six months of 2013, and they show WBLS up 76% over the previous year, in a market that’s ahead 6%. The Sutton family probably watches the change in fortunes and wishes they could’ve hung on just a little bit longer. But their creditors kept pushing, and last year the ownership changed from Inner City Broadcasting (controlled by the Suttons) to YMF Media. YMF is the Yucaipa Companies’ Ron Burkle, Fortress Investment Group and Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Crain’s gives us some more juicy stuff about the New York numbers. For instance, WRKS did just $11.3 million in the fiscal year that ended in February 2012. Compare that to the BIA/Kelsey-estimated $25.2 million that WBLS billed in calendar 2011. Now without “Kiss” around, WBLS has risen to near the top in the monthly Arbitron PPM ratings with age 6+ AQH share, and it’s getting on a lot of buys now. Though Levingston says “we’re seventh or eighth in billing” – a hangover of how some ad buyers and clients view the urban radio audience. We also learn from Crain’s about the investments being made by YMF Media, like the “months-long social media training program for the on-air talent conducted by marketing firm Jumpwire Media.”
PPL politely asks U.S. webcasters to “immediately geo-lock” their streams in the U.K.
The British “collecting society” says that Clear Channel and Emmis are “already taking that approach at present.” If U.S. webcasters – including terrestrial operators who stream – don’t want to keep their online product away from users in London, Leeds or Liverpool, they’re requested to “discuss the licensing requirements” with the PPL. As Digital Music News says, there’s a reciprocal agreement between countries, so that “UK artists get paid when their music is licensed to American online stations, and vice versa...or at least they’re supposed to.” Digital Music News says it’s important to keep track of where your listeners are. But for now, it says “nobody’s paying” the PPL, from America.
Spring-book Arbitrons from diary markets – Day 10.
Jackson, Mississippi – Gospel “Hallelujah 95.5” WHLH stays on top with age 12+ AQH share. Since last Summer, it’s moved 10.4-11.3-11.2-10.4. Second and third places go to the just-sold urban AC “Kixie 107” WKXI (11.9-8.8-10.6-10.0) and urban WJMI (11.3-9.7-11.6-9.8). Larry Wilson’s L&L Broadcasting has filed to acquire them and the other local YMF Media stations for $9.4 million. In these new Spring ratings, Clear Channel’s talk/sports WJDX is up 1.4-1.6-1.3-2.5 – its best topline in nearly 24 years, since Fall 1989. All shares in this section are 12+ AQH, reflecting the Spring survey period of March 28-June 19. And remember the Arbitron “subscriber-only” policy, which means the public only gets to see the shares of stations that subscribe to the book. Jackson was the only “continuous measurement” market released yesterday, getting four quarterly books a year. Everybody else is a Spring/Fall market –
Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky – It’s the 19th straight #1 for Clear Channel’s country “Bull” WBUL. Going back to Spring 2012, it’s moved 13.5-11.6-10.5. Even down a couple of points, it’s almost five shares ahead of #2 CHR sister “104.5 the Cat” WLKT, 5.9-6.2-5.6. The bunching up in the 5-share range continues with CC’s classic rock WKQQ, 6.4-4.2-5.4. There’s a tie at 5.1, between Lynn Martin’s urban “Beat” WBTF (5.5-5.6-5.1) and Cumulus country WLXX – now re-branded as “Nash” – going 3.8-4.2-5.1.
Augusta, Georgia – “Bob FM,” Beasley’s variety hits WDRR, jumped 4.7-4.4-6.1, for its best 12+ share in the 29-year history of the 93.9 frequency. On top, you’ll find Beasley’s country “Kicks 99” WKXC, 12.0-11.0-10.3 and Clear Channel’s urban AC “Kiss” WKSP, 7.1-7.0-7.9. Note that Beasley and Clear Channel are the only two subscribers here.
Roanoke-Lynchburg – It’s 11 straight #1 finishes for the Mel Wheeler group’s “Star Country” WSLC, 11.5-10.5-11.8. Strong second-place sister urban AC “Vibe” WVBE-AM/FM and WVBB jump 6.2-7.7-9.3. That’s the best topline ever for the Vibe. But it’s an off-book for Wheeler’s AC “Q99” WSLQ, 9.8-10.0-8.0. The first Clear Channel station to be seen is rock WROV, 5.3-5.8-7.3. The only two subscribing owners here are Clear Channel and the Wheeler group.
Worcester – Clear Channel AC WSRS wins, 9.6-9.1-9.9. Entercom’s rockin’ WAAF/WKAF is off, 6.4-7.2-5.2. It’s tied with Cumulus-owned hot AC WXLO, 5.3-5.6-5.2. CC’s news/talk WTAG comes next, 4.9-5.0-5.0. Cumulus classic hits WWFX enjoys a recent high, 3.9-3.9-4.8.
Atlantic City – Think the Jersey shore’s not a country kind of place? Townsquare’s “Cat Country” WPUR advances 7.1-7.1-9.3, on the back of its best 12+ performance since Fall 2006. It's #1, this book. Sister AC WFPG is steady 8.8-8.6-8.6 and Equity’s urban AC “Touch” WTTH is likewise stable, 6.6-5.6-5.7. Equity’s EZ listening WEZW hangs in, 1.2-2.8-1.5.
Formats and branding –
◊ Boston Herald Radio will help “bring the Herald’s watchdog journalism across print, web and broadcast platforms.” Boston’s other big daily paper has very different ideas about online radio from competitor The Globe, which is trying to corral former listeners to adult alternative WFNX. The feisty tabloid Herald is thinking more along the lines of talk radio. The lineup that debuts next Monday opens with the 6-9am “Live from the Newsroom with Jeff Katz,” last at Clear Channel’s ex-talk WXKS/1200. Then “Morning Meeting with Jaclyn Cashman and Hillary Chabot.” “The Michael Graham Show,” featuring the former seven-year WTKK/96.9 talker. And “Sports Town with Jon Meterparel and Jen Roy,” from 3-6pm. Herald publisher and president Pat Purcell says “Internet radio is exploding and it makes sense that the Herald rounds out our multimedia platform with talk radio programming. It’s perfect synergy.” The Herald promises “news insiders with updates, and breaking news reports straight from the Herald newsroom.” More about the Herald’s plans for talk and news radio here.
◊ Austin’s 96.3 translator switches to urban AC, pulling out of its simulcast with Entercom sister talk KJCE (1370). The flip at 96.3 (K242CC) happened yesterday, and the syndicated Steve Harvey joins the station today. Local personality Snoop Daniel will do afternoons, with more talent announcements to come. Back at KJCE, there’s a refreshed lineup that starts with TRN’s America’s Morning News, 5-8am, then Laura Ingraham live from 8-11am. Dennis Miller runs 11am-1pm, then Dave Ramsey and Sean Hannity.
◊ Amarillo classic country “Legends 99.7” yields to more “Fun.” KBZD owner Tejas Broadcasting works the latest format change on a facility that’s had its share of programming makeovers. It’s been Tejano as “Recuerdo,” classic country (since last October), “Divas” (since June), and now hot AC, as “Fun 99.7.”
The TV Tsunami continues, with Sinclair gobbling up Washington DC’s WJLA and other Allbritton properties. Price? $985 million. Remember, that’s on top of the $373 million or so that Sinclair’s paying for the yet-to-close Fisher Communications deal, and the $370 million Sinclair’s spending to acquire the 18 stations of Barrington Broadcasting. In the Allbritton deal, the prize is clearly Washington DC’s ABC affiliate WJLA, positioned for rich harvests of political and issue advertising. But Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker sees something else that Sinclair really craves – the DC-area “Newschannel 8” cable/satellite news network. Ryvicker says the hefty 8.7-times multiple that Sinclair’s paying has a lot to do with the cable news channel.
Sinclair “has plans to roll out the cable news network across all of its markets,” says Wall Street analyst Marci Ryvicker. She says Allbritton’s Newschannel 8 would serve as a backbone for “infusing local news into a national news format.” She says “this network would be the first of its kind, and is likely to bring significant synergies over time.” Ryvicker even predicts as much as $300 million of incremental revenue from a national-scale “Newschannel 8” – making the $985 million price that Baltimore-based Sinclair is paying look very reasonable (like below a 3-times multiple). Note the language that Sinclair President/CEO David Smith uses about the Allbritton prize – “to buy a full-blown news operation in our nation’s capital and an infrastructure that allows us to be connected to our branches of government and be at the pulse of national issues is a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
But Sinclair needs to spin some of its own stations – two in Birmingham (My Network affiliate WABM and CW affiliate WTTO), CBS affiliate WHP-TV in Harrisburg, and My affiliate WMMP in Charleston, SC. That’s from TV Newscheck, which says those stations may not stray far from the mothership – Sinclair “expects to provide sales and other non-programming support services to each of those stations, pursuant to customary shared services and joint sales agreements.” The FCC shows signs of being less happy about those, but Sinclair probably has excellent lobbyists. Allbritton brings Sinclair its TV stations in these markets – Birmingham (thus the spins of two current Sinclair stations), Harrisburg (ditto for WHP-TV), Little Rock (ABC affiliate KATV), Tulsa (ABC affiliate KTUL), Roanoke-Lynchburg (ABC affiliate WSET) and Charleston SC (ABC affiliate WCIV, and again, that’s why Sinclair’s WMMP would be going).
A $300,000 grant and an engineering upgrade should bring more classical music to the lower Hudson Valley. New York Public Radio just closed on its $400,000 purchase of variety-programmed WDFH, Ossining (90.3), in a deal brokered by Larry Patrick and Greg Guy of Patrick Communications. The New York Times says 300 grand of the price came from the Ford Foundation. As for the hemmed-in 53-watt signal at 475 feet, there’s now a construction permit for 250 watts of power, which the buyer says will help put the signal over the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts in Katonah. Seller in this deal was Hudson Valley Community Radio. And now 90.3 is doing classical, mostly simulcasting New York Public Radio’s WQXR Newark (105.9).
UK’s Absolute Radio – the onetime Virgin Radio – sells to Bauer Media for just $33.8 million. The price of 22 million pounds is actually more than the Times of India was rumored to be willing to accept in 2011. But it’s far less than the 53 million pounds (about $94 million U.S.) Times of India paid for then-Virgin Radio. The UK’s Radio Today figures Times of India “spent another 15 million pounds rebranding it,” on top of the purchase price. Problem was, Sir Richard Branson refused to license the “Virgin” name to Times of India, and that led to the re-make as “Absolute Radio.” Talk about declining station values – years ago, the Scottish Media Group paid Chris Evans 225 million pounds for then-Virgin Radio. Now back to 2013 – The Guardian says magazine and radio station owner Bauer Media is paying “close to 22 million pounds” for Absolute. Bauer publishes magazines like Heat, and it owns stations in the UK branded as Kiss, Magic and Kerrang. The Guardian says Bauer “already accounts for a 26.5% share of the commercial radio market” in the UK. Note that Absolute Radio isn’t just one signal. It’s one of three independent national stations, with multiple signals on AM, FM (in London), the UK DAB system and cable/satellite. It also has multiple format spinoffs. Radio Today has the email message to Absolute Radio staff from CEO Donnach O’Driscoll here.
Take 2 on an historical sale price, from yesterday’s NOW. Crawford bought what’s now KJSL, St. Louis (630) for $1.5 million back in 1994 – not $525,000. Crawford did indeed buy another St. Louis AM that same year for $525,000, but that was KSTL at 690. It’s KJSL/630 that Crawford’s now selling to Bible Broadcasting Network for $2 million.
Allan Handelman returns to local radio in North Carolina, as he keeps up his eponymous syndicated show and “Rock Talk.” Allan enjoys working rock & roll into his talk-show act, which he’ll bring to Curtis Media Group’s talk WSJS, Winston-Salem (600), starting Monday. Curtis says current 3-6pm host Bob Campbell is “leaving to pursue his passion in music radio.” Handelman’s most recent local radio appearance was on the Triad’s former “FM Talk 101.1” WZTK, which is now regional Mexican “La Ley.” Matt Clark is the ops manager at WSJS, and he says "our core mission is reflecting the unique tastes and perspectives of local listeners across the Piedmont Triad."
The wrong kind of audience research - A short one today from a NOW reader who once worked in the Upper Midwest. He says "I once had this GM I really liked, but sometimes he'd be away. Seems that he and a friend in town, also a prominent businessman, would get busted for peeking into peoples' windows. They never actually did any time for it, but they were collared more than once." Got your own true radio story? Email Tom@RTK-Media, for “You Can’t Make This Up.”
Mandatory staff meeting today at Fox Sports Radio in L.A. - What's that about? It's called for 1:30pm Pacific time, at the Sherman Oaks HQ of Clear Channel-run Fox Sports Radio. Those who can't be there in person are asked to call in.
Smart people are reading this Tom Taylor NOW Newsletter every morning. Want to reach them, with your marketing or advertising message? Or do you want to hire one of them, for an opening, using the Classified feature? Contact our Kristy Scott - Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. See you back tomorrow with the takeaways from the Cumulus and Nielsen quarterly conference calls. Tom