First We Entertain: You’re Here Because of Ben Hoberman

| May 6, 2014

By Walter Sabo
Sabo Media
CEO

sabowriterNEW YORK — In the 1970s and early 80s KABC-AM, Los Angeles was the number 1 or 2
biller in America.  From its inception it was run by Ben Hoberman.

Meeting Mr. Hoberman was an event.  You made an appointment, no one just
walked in to his office.  The GM down the hall at KLOS made an
appointment.  Mr. Hoberman’s office was different than yours.  It was
crisp, immaculate and no-nonsense.  Just like Mr. Hoberman.

His professionalism allowed KABC to become a powerful, entertaining
radio station that launched the first successful radio psychologist, Dr.
Toni Grant.  It gave a home to outrageous sexual innuendo from Bill
Ballance.  Joe Pine set the tuning fork for Bob Grant and many others.

10 Years to Become Profitable

In the ABC corporate meetings that strategized WABC’s conversion from
music to talk, it was agreed that 10 years was necessary for the talk
format to become profitable.  Why?  Because it took KABC — the model — 10
years to become profitable.  Actually, it took 11 years.

The 10-year investment paid off.  KABC was the number 1 biller in
American through most of the 1970s and 80s.

No one bullied Mr. Hoberman — certainly no advertiser did.  Like any good talk
station, KABC pissed off its advertisers regularly.  Ben would get quiet
and look at the sales manager with a withering glare indicating that the
advertiser would have to be taught.

Started Satellite Talk Radio

In the dawn of the 1980s many of KABC’s hosts were put on ABC’s
satellite distributed talk radio service.  This was revolutionary.  It was
managed by Rick Sklar and run by Ed McLaughlin.  ABC’s support and
funding of satellite radio distribution shaped today’s radio industry.
No other company embraced that risk.

Summary: Mr. Hoberman invested in new technology.  Embraced fresh, often
outrageous talent.  Did not bend to advertiser’ whims.  Understood it’s a
show.

Mr. Hoberman was smart and became rich investing in real estate, mostly
in Marina Del Ray.  His son, Tom Hoberman is a very powerful
entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles.  Also no nonsense.  David Hoberman is
a successful producer, a great showman.  Dad knew it’s about the show,
not about corporate finance.

tbugk

Walter Sabo is CEO of New York City-based consulting firm, Sabo Media.  He can be reached at Walter@sabomedia.com.  Meet Walter Sabo at TALKERS 2014 New York on Friday, June 20.

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Category: Advice, Opinions