|So Many Possibilities...
Deals within deals – more on Cumulus-Dial Global-Townsquare.
So much is spilling out, since Monday morning’s NOW lead story about Cumulus apparently on the verge of announcing that it’s buying Dial Global. The actual announcement may have the feeling of an anticlimax. Perhaps the most nervous bunch of folks is the crew at Dial Global. They’re going to be judged against any existing product that’s run by Cumulus Media Networks, because Cumulus is a known cost-cutter when it comes to integrating companies. (Witness the 2006 purchase of Susquehanna and the 2011 pickup of Citadel.) CEO Lew Dickey is fond of telling Wall Street that he’s exceeded his own estimates of cost-savings by squeezing two companies together. Several syndicators are saying they see definite opportunities to pick up shows and talent that don’t have enough return on investment for a large company – but might for a smaller shop. Still, any deal that’s announced today or tomorrow or next week is going to have to wait for federal anti-trust review. It won’t close until sometime in 2014. That’s a lot of time to make a Plan B – or Plan C. Same for the folks at Cumulus stations that may be spun to Townsquare Media, to help pay for the DG deal. And on that topic -
• “Cumulus visited one northeastern cluster about three weeks ago, inventorying everything right down to the staples.” That’s from one NOW reader, who wonders if Cumulus might be thinking about spinning facilities in places like White Plains and Poughkeepsie, New York, plus Bridgeport and Danbury, Connecticut. That’s just in case Cumulus has the chance to buy more stations in New York City. Clearing out some of the stations around the Big Apple might forestall questions about market caps in New York. And besides – wouldn’t Connecticut-based Townsquare Media be interested in owning more stations close to home? Yesterday’s NOW Newsletter told you about the conversations Cumulus has been having with Townsquare, about selling some Cumulus markets to Townsquare to help raise capital. Another thing – didn’t an executive at Albany-based Pamal Broadcasting resign last week, without saying where he was going? Could that person be headed to Townsquare? Just speculation.
• Dial Global is cutting new liners for “Westwood One,” ahead of a name change this NOW Newsletter’s been telling you about since July 15. New-to-the-industry CEO Paul Caine reportedly thinks it’s a stronger name than Dial Global, and one source says “liners and promos are being recorded now.” The company had originally set next Wednesday, September 4, as the switchover date – though it’s unclear if the larger plans between Dial Global and Cumulus have altered that timetable. DG hasn’t said anything publicly about a possible return to the company name that Norm Pattiz began using in 1976. Some former Westwood One assets are part of today’s Dial Global – whose own name is a 2006 amalgam of predecessors Dial Communications and Global Media.
• Cumulus could launch its own Atlanta-based national news service, to replace ABC News Radio. One NOW reader says “Lew Dickey’s supposedly looking at all the ex-CNN employees in his own backyard, and is considering doing his own news service. That way, he owns all the [ad] inventory.” It’s been a year and a half since the shutdown of the U.S. CNNRadio service, and Cumulus has already gained experience doing all-news by hiring some former CNN’ers for its “All News 106.7” WYAY. As yesterday’s NOW newsletter told you, the seven-year Dial Global deal with ABC ends in early 2014, and almost nobody thinks it will be renewed. (Is it true that ABC News Radio folks are no longer routinely included in all the daily meetings at ABC News?) But there’s another possibility to replace ABC News – amping up the existing partnership that Cumulus with CBS for sports. Or, if Cumulus does acquire Dial Global, expanding the NBC News radio product line that comes with DG. Either of those would be cheaper than starting a network news service from scratch.
• Investors are paying attention – the long dormant Dial stock gained 21% yesterday. It’s been beaten down to extremely low levels since its voluntary delisting last Fall from the NASDAQ. But yesterday the speculation about a sale apparently filtered its way to some traders. “DIAL” gained 6 cents to 34 cents, for a one-day percentage gain of 21%, on volume of 8,000 shares. None of those are big numbers, to be sure. But it’s more activity than the stock’s seen in over a month. Got something to contribute to this developing story? Email Tom@RTK-Media.com.
Those Clear Channel-programmed slots on XM may be ghosts by Halloween.
You read here (August 2 NOW) that Clear Channel revealed on its second quarter conference call that it’s sold all its stock in SiriusXM, for a total of $135.5 million. CC was an early investor in then-XM Satellite Radio, and it obtained (and fought to continue) the right to program some channels. That later turned out to be a headache for the satcaster when it wanted to tout its commercial-free music channels – because the CC-programmed services carried light commercial loads. So the question is, if Clear Channel’s no longer holding any stock in the now-merged SiriusXM, how long will they continue to have a presence on the programming lineup? The original answer to that question was “through the end of this month,” meaning they’d vanish this weekend. But there’s speculation that there’s a reprieve until sometime in October. One theory about the extra time is that Clear Channel had commitments to advertisers that needed to be fulfilled. The XM schedule lists the Clear Channel offerings under “More,” instead of grouping them by format. CC-owned top 40’s KIIS Los Angeles (channel 11) and “Z100” WHTZ New York (channel 12) are on there, along with NYC’s adult contemporary “Lite” WLTW (channel 13), country WSIX Nashville (channel 57) and urban WGCI Chicago (channel 241). There’s also some talk programming there – which all presumably has to be gone, in a couple of months. It’s still going to be available online – and via iHeartRadio.
GE Capital is writing checks to some media companies, including Greater Media.
Westfair reports that its near-neighbor over in Norwalk, Connecticut says it’s invested $2.7 billion in “telecom, media and technology” in the first half of the year – and that $160 million of that went to Greater Media to “expand its national radio station network.” We’ll see if that means Peter Smyth is shopping, or replacing some other financial instrument. Most likely, it was new financing, not capital. Privately-held Greater Media has radio clusters in Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, Charlotte and New Jersey, plus various print assets. We usually find out when public radio companies do their re-financings – but we seldom hear about private radio groups.
Drew Barrymore’s sonogram triggers a copyright suit against Entravision.
Once again, the plaintiff in the suit is National Photo Group and once again, the law firm is the Garden City, Long Island-based Sanders Law. That same team is suing Clear Channel (for among other things, a Drew Barrymore pic) and Townsquare Media (shots of Jason Aldean and Rihanna), among others. This time, Entravision is nailed for using a copyrighted parking-lot shot of Drew Barrymore holding a sonogram, on the website of its Sacramento-market country “101.9 the Wolf” KNTY. Also as usual, National Photo and Sanders Law are asking the court for $150,000 in damages, plus legal fees and court costs. The likely outcome? A quiet settlement with confidential terms, and a voluntary dismissal of the suit.
Baton Rouge’s “Country Legends” fades, to make room for a new sports simulcast.
Guaranty Broadcasting’s Country Legends 104.9 KYPY, Donaldsonville is a Class A south of Baton Rouge, and it’s now simulcasting with sister “ESPN 104.5” WNXX, licensed to north-of-the-market Jackson. If you notice that one of these signals is a “K” and one is a “W,” you’re right – this is a relatively rare simulcast of such call letters. It's possible because the transmitters are on opposite sides of the Mississippi River.
Clear Channel’s handing Steve Harvey a trainload of prizes to begin his “Fall radio season.”
It’s a TV-style bit of marketing, with guest co-hosts for the week of September 9-13 including Tyler Perry, John Legend, Nancy Grace, Clark Howard, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz and ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. Harvey’s giving away diamonds each day (a woman’s ring and man’s set of cufflinks) – and of course a spectacular trip to the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas, September 20-21. Harvey’s TV career is thriving, as he returns for his second season in daytime syndication. Clear Channel’s treating his morning radio show with the same promotional intensity – a rare thing in radio.
Joe Snelson is the new president of SBE, the Society of Broadcast Engineers.
Joe’s the VP of engineering at Meredith and begins his one-year term on October 30. He moves up from the SBE’s vice president slot, which is the usual path. The new VP is Entercom radio’s Jerry Massey, based at the cluster in Greenville-Spartanburg, SC. Jim Leifer’s re-elected as secretary and Andrea Cummis is the new treasurer. There are six new board members, including Wisconsin radio GM/chief engineer Mark Heller of WGWB/WLWB in Two Rivers and consultant Tom Ray, who spent many years as the head of engineering for Buckley radio. The SBE National Meeting is coming up in late October, alongside the Indiana Broadcasters Association’s Broadcast Engineering and IT workshop in Indianapolis.
$5.5 million cash is the price for the extensive cluster of stations around Williamsport, Pennsylvania. We knew the basic deal, where Backyard Broadcasting’s market manager Dan Farr is buying the stations he’s been managing for Barry Drake. Now the FCC filing gives us the price, for stations such as country WILQ (105.1) and the rock simulcast of WZXR South Williamsport (99.3) and WCXR Lewisburg (103.7). All told, there are five FMs, one AM and a translator in the deal brokered by Kalil & Company. This is the last market for Drake’s Backyard, which exits the business. But buyer Dan Farr perpetuates the name, filing as “Backyard Broadcasting PA.”
Salem CEO Ed Atsinger keeps building out his Christian online division, buying ChristianHeadlines.com for an undisclosed amount. (The seller is also undisclosed in the press release here.) Atsinger has kept amassing Christian and conservative online assets, regardless of what was happening on the radio side of the business. Among the websites in the group now – BibleStudyTools.com, GodTube.com (videos, just as you’d expect) and WorshipHouseMedia. ChristianHeadlines.com appears to be a Drudge-style aggregator of stories, grouped by “top headlines” (“everything but the pews stolen from Mass. Church”) to “positive headlines” (“Methodist Church puts human rights slant on investment”) to sections labeled Prolife, Gay Marriage and Homeschooling. Last night, under “Life News,” you could see the story headlined “Clear Channel caves, agrees to run ads for abortion business,” referring to an ongoing controversy over a women's clinic in Wichita that’s been a PR nightmare for the cluster. Check ChristianHeadlines here.
“Fabulous Sports Babe” Nanci Donnellan is bumped back to weekends, a year after the launch of CBS Radio’s all-sports “98.7 the Fan” WHFS-FM in Tampa. Eric Deggans at TampaBay.com says Donnellan originally thought she was being fired altogether on Monday evening, following a meeting just before her 7pm shift. But Deggans says CBS is offering her weekends, probably starting after the upcoming Labor Day weekend. “The Babe” was originally slotted in overnights when the Fan launched, then was moved up to evenings. She says part of the problem is baseball – going up against the Tampa Bay Rays so often. Her agent Gabe Hobbs tells Deggans he was surprised at what happened Monday, since CBS had offered her a contract extension which they were still negotiating. For now, CBS-Tampa VP/Programming Brian Thomas says they’ll use part-timers for the evening shift. Sunglass-wearing Nanci Donnellan was a groundbreaking female sports-talk host - in Boston and Tampa in the 1980s, later on KJR Seattle, and then nationally on ESPN. But she ran into health problems, including a stroke in January 2012.
Chris “Mad Dog” Russo to stay at SiriusXM, at the channel that bears his name. Not only does the satcaster renew sports talker Russo - starting next year, he’ll be hosting a new show on cable’s MLB Network that will be audiocast on MLB Network Radio. So he’ll be appearing on two different satellite radio channels with daily shows. And just as he did for the iconic “Mike and the Mad Dog” afternoon show for CBS-owned WFAN New York (then just at 660 AM), Russo does afternoons for SiriusXM. His new contract also designates him as the “baseball ambassador” for SiriusXM, making various other appearances on MLB Network Radio. SiriusXM President and Chief Content Officer Scott Greenstein calls Russo “one of the best in the history of the medium” and says the new agreement keeps him there “for years to come.” He’d sat alongside Mike Francesa for nearly 20 years at New York’s “Fan” before jumping the traces to work for Sirius. That was in 2008.
Jeff Garrison earns a promotion, just six months after joining Cox Media Group at its San Antonio cluster (March 14 NOW). Cox has now bestowed the “country format leader” title on him, allowing him to work with its stations in Houston, Orlando, Dayton, Tulsa and Athens. Hi home-base continues to be San Antonio’s “Y100” KCYY. Before Cox, Jeff had worn a similar format captain cap for CBS Radio, and he’d most recently been the group’s Country VP/Artist-Label Relations. He’ll continue his dual roles in San Antonio – programming Y100 and serving as ops manager for the cluster.
Matt & Ramona will be staying on at Greater Media’s hot AC WLNK Charlotte (107.9), having refreshed their deal to host afternoon drive. When Matt Harris and Ramona Holloway were first hired in 2001, the format descriptor was “personality AC,” and there’s still a strong personality feel to the station that’s the home of the Bob & Sheri morning show. Earlier this year, Ramona began co-hosting the midday “Charlotte Today” with Colleen Odegaard on NBC TV affiliate WCNC – after which she dashes over to prep for the radio show.
Amy Tardif is lined up to be the next chair of RTDNA, the Radio Television Digital News Association. She’s the first woman from public radio to hold that distinction, which she’ll juggle for the next year along with her responsibilities in Ft. Myers-Naples as the news director at WGCU Public Media (radio and TV) and station manager at news/talk WGCU (90.1). The combo’s owned by Florida Gulf Coast University. The Ft. Myers News-Press says Amy was named Chair-Elect on Monday at the RTDNA’s annual meeting in Anaheim – which means she’ll be chairing next year’s conference in Nashville, among other things. Tardif’s been the news director at WGCU for the last 12 years, at an operation which won a Peabody award in 2011. She’s currently a regional director of the RTDNA professional association, which has members in the U.S. and more than 30 other countries.
Dick Dudley was one of radio’s builders. He started after serving in World War II as a salesman at WSAU Wausau, rose to GM in 1951, added responsibilities at the new WSAW-TV and ran that starting in 1959. The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association points you to Dudley’s obituary here, and it’s impressive – Dudley led the growth of radio/TV/newspaper owner Forward Communications. That was sold to Wesray in 1984 and Dick stayed with the company until it was acquired by Adams Communications in 1988. But Dudley wasn’t finished yet. The next year, he and his brother Bob opened TV group owner Dudley Communications, and ran that until they sold it to Tribune in 1998. Dick Dudley served the industry on the NAB Radio Board (where he was also Chairman), and he was a president of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association – the group that announces his death at 89. The WBA calls him a broadcaster and “one of Wausau’s best-known philanthropists.”
The Zero Dark Thirty frantic hotel-room feeling - NOW reader Tom Collins says "This happened to me on a monitor trip many years ago in Philly. I had been in Detroit, Pittsburgh, arriving in Philly dog tired. I spent the day listening to WFIL and others, then laid down for a few minutes to catch a cat nap. Well, I woke up at 6:30pm, thought it was 6:30am, and was frantic that I was going to miss my 7 o'clock flight to New York. It took me making a fool of myself calling the airlines to reschedule and raising hell with the hotel for not honoring my wake-up call, to realize half way through my rant with the front desk that it was indeed the same day. You don’t have to be on the air doing mornings to do stupid stuff." Got your own true radio story? Share it with the industry, via “You Can’t Make This Up.” Email Tom@RTK-Media.com.
“I read you first in the morning, to get a start on the news,” one subscriber said yesterday. He says “You kind of set the agenda for me, as I keep reading through the day.” Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for telling a friend about us. Also for using NOW to fill a job opening (the Classified section) and to market your products or services. Kristy Scott can offer solutions on the sales side, and she’s reachable at Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. Two more days until the long Labor Day weekend – and we’ll see if the Cumulus news officially starts breaking before then. Follow it here – Tom
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