Thursday, February 14, 2019

| February 14, 2019

Cumulus Sells Six – Including WPLJ, New York and WRQX, Washington – to EMF for $103.5 Million; Swaps Three stations with Entercom.  Seller Cumulus Media Inc. calls these deals “strategic portfolio optimization transactions.”  The sale of six stations to religious broadcaster Educational Media Foundation will bring Cumulus $103.5 million in cash for hot AC WPLJ, New York; news/talk WYAY, Atlanta; triple A KFFG, San Francisco; hot AC WRQX, Washington; hot AC WZAT, Savannah; and classic rock WXTL, Syracuse.  When EMF takes control, the stations will all flip to its K-Love Christian music format.  The second deal is with Entercom and involves the swap of Cumulus’ country WNSH, New York “NASH FM”; hot AC WMAS-FM, Springfield, Massachusetts and sports talk WHLL-AM, Springfield in exchange for Entercom’s Indianapolis cluster of adult contemporary WNTR “107.9 The Mix,” CHR WZPL, and sports talk WXNT-AM.  This means Entercom exits the Indy market and those three stations join Cumulus’ existing three stations there: classic hits WJJK, country WFMS, and CHR WYRG “Energy 93.9.” Cumulus president and CEO Mary Berner says, “These transactions are consistent with our portfolio optimization strategy and both deals are accretive.  The Entercom swap significantly bolsters our competitive position in Indianapolis and the EMF transaction generates substantial cash for debt repayment and investment in other business opportunities.”  The company notes that EMF will acquire all transmission equipment and assume all tower leases associated with the stations which collectively contribute approximately $5 million to $7 million of EBITDA to Cumulus annually.  Regarding the Entercom swap, both companies will begin operating the other’s stations under LMAs on March 1.

Format Flip Likely as the Result of Cumulus-Entercom Deal.  The acquisition of Entercom’s CHR WZPL – the clear ratings leader in top 40 radio in the market – means a format change is imminent for Cumulus’ WYRG which has been bubbling under a 2 share (6+) while WZPL has been scoring more than a 5 share in recent PPM surveys from Nielsen Audio.  In New York, there’s no reason to think Entercom will flip WNSH from country.  While it’s been hovering around a 2.2 share (6+), it’s the only country signal in New York and it’s hard to imagine Entercom giving up on it.  Stay tuned.

What Will Cumulus Do with WABC and New York Stations?  Maybe nothing, but yesterday’s surprise sale of six of its signals to EMF and the swap with Entercom indicates Cumulus is willing to deal if it has strategic significance.  Now that the company’s New York cluster is destined to consist of news/talk WABC-AM, urban AC WNBM – a class A FM licensed to Bronxville – and suburban sports talk WFAS-AM, Westchester, some industry watchers are wondering if the three-station cluster brings in enough revenue to continue operating in the Big Apple.  WFAS-AM isn’t listed in the Nielsen New York PPMs and WNBM has been garnering 6+ ratings of less than a full share in recent PPM surveys.  WABC-AM is a venerable signal with obvious history in the market but appears to be underperforming with 6+ numbers in the 1.0-1.5 share range.  One wonders if Mary Berner and company are weighing finding buyers for the three signals.

Judge: Alex Jones Can Be Deposed in Sandy Hook Case. According to a report in the Hartford Courant, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that talk show host and Infowars chief Alex Jones must take part in a sworn deposition in the defamation case filed against him by the families of eight victims of the Sandy Hook shootings. The judge ruled that after Jones’ counsel filed a Motion to Dismiss, the families are entitled to conduct discovery “likely to lead to admissible evidence for opposing the motions.”  Three other Infowars staffers will have to sit for depositions that, combined with Jones’ deposition, will total 19 hours of testimony. Jones and Infowars are being sued separately by two different Newtown, Connecticut families in Texas.  The families’ lawsuits allege that Jones engaged in a lengthy campaign “abusive and outrageous false statements” that the Sandy Hook shootings were staged by paid actors.  The suit alleges Jones knew what he was perpetrating was false but he continued because it drew an audience and made money for his company.  Jones argues his First Amendment rights are enough to toss the suits.  He is also being ordered deposed in Texas, but those depositions have not taken place yet.

WPHT, Philadelphia to Produce Liberty USO Radiothon. Tomorrow’s daylong radiothon will take place at Chickie’s & Pete’s Play 2 in Philadelphia from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm. It’s called the “Talk Radio 1210 WPHT Liberty USO Radiothon” and it will benefit Active, Guard and Reserve military and their families through programs and services at the United Service Organization of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey (Liberty USO).  It will be anchored by WPHT personalities Chris Stigall, Dom Giordano and Rich Zeoli.  Entercom Philadelphia SVP and market manager David Yadgaroff says, “I am proud of the role our station plays in supporting our military through the efforts of Liberty USO.  Last year’s radiothon raised over $120,000 and is a testament to the power local radio plays in bringing our community together for a great cause.  We are looking forward to partnering with Liberty USO once again.”

Actor Wendell Pierce Part of Group Seeking to Buy WBOK, New Orleans. According to a report by WGNO-TV, New Orleans, native son and actor Wendell Pierce is part of a group of investors bidding on the license for urban news/talk outlet WBOK, New Orleans.  The station is owned by Los Angeles-based Bakewell Media which has the station on the market. Pierce, known for his work on “The Wire” and Amazon Prime’s “Jack Ryan” series, says in a statement, “Through all the substantial change New Orleans has faced in recent history, WBOK has served as a steadfast and indispensable platform for our community.  The people trust them, they depend on them, and they believe in them.  WBOK Radio is the glue that brings and holds our city together.”  The story says the other investors are listed as: Cleveland Spears III, Troy Henry, and Jeff Thomas.

Salem Media Group Promotes Three. At Camarillo, California-based Salem Media Group, three executive promotions take place. First, 16-year Salem exec Chris Gould rises from his VP, national programming, to senior vice president, national programming.  Second, Mark Durkin is promoted from general manager of the company’s Sacramento cluster to a regional vice president position that adds oversight of Seattle, San Francisco and Oxnard, California to his Sacramento duties.  Finally, Franc Boza is named general manager for the Salem Miami cluster. He was most recently with Deadcenter Marketing as VP of sales and marketing.

Skyview Networks Announces Staff Promotions. Scottsdale, Arizona-based Skyview Networks announces a series of promotions among staffers.  In the production department, Joe Felz is upped to vice president of production.  Elsewhere, Denise Krause rises from client service director to senior director of client services and co-chair promotions, based in New York City.  Ethan Aragon takes on the new title of senior director of client services.  Jordan Thorlin is named creative director.  In the same department, Alexandria Landry is appointed multimedia designer.  In the sales department, Alex Warrick takes on the new role of director of agency services.  Finally, radio industry pro Mary Stoddard moves into the client service director and co-chair promotions position.

TALKERS News Notes. Minnesota sports talk station KFXN-FM, Minneapolis gets some love from City Pages as the alt-weekly does a big feature on the station in honor of “KFAN” capturing “the highest market share percentage of any top-50 sports talk station in the country, according to Nielsen” last fall…..Boston Red Sox aficionados have been waiting to find out who will be in the broadcast booth this year for games broadcast on Entercom’s Red Sox flagship WEEI, Boston and now it’s confirmed that play-by-play legend Joe Castiglione has signed for his 37th season with the team.  As for the color analysts?  Those duties will be split among three principal broadcasters: Sean McDonough, Josh Lewin, and Mario Impemba, with several more also in the rotation.  They include: ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman, WEEI personalities Lou Merloni and Dale ArnoldNESN studio host Tom Caron, and NESN Red Sox television broadcaster Dave O’Brien…..KCAA, Loma Linda, California owner Fred Lundgren tells TALKERS magazine that after many years of producing and distributing radio programs and podcasts for hundreds of broadcasters, his family has decided to produce its own podcast series, hosted by his wife, Linda Carol Lundgren, titled, “Don’t Be Afraid To Ask.” Lundgren says the show will address many of life’s difficult subjects such as money, sex, drugs, bullying, long term relationships, the changing culture, and the problems facing the next generation of young adults as they leave home and enter the workplace.  The first show visits the tragic origins of Valentine’s Day and how the importance of that day has evolved over the centuries. Check it out here…..WGCH, Greenwich, Connecticut afternoon talk show host Lisa Wexler was recently honored by cable channel News 12 Connecticut as one of its “Hometown Heroes.”  Wexler serves as a local probate judge and donates each $50 wedding fee she receives to the local Westport Animal Shelter Advocates organization. Check it out here…..Motor Racing Network is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first coverage of the Daytona 500 this Sunday (2/17).  In honor of that event, MRN will broadcast its 50th Daytona 500 and the 61st running of “The Great American Race” on over 400 radio stations nationwide.  Sunday’s race also marks the culmination of more than 30 hours of programming produced by MRN during Daytona Speedweeks, NASCAR’s annual kickoff at Daytona International Speedway.  The broadcast is the first event in a two-year celebration of the founding of the network by Bill France, Sr. and Ken Squier in 1970.

TalkersRadio Personality Meg McDonald Installed as President of the Studio City Beautification Association.  Legendary Southern California PR executive Meg McDonald, who hosts the short-form feature MEG! on TalkersRadio, was recently installed as the new president of the Studio City Beautification Association.  Studio City is a section of Los Angeles with a colorful show business history located between Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley.  Standing with Meg in front of the Mack Sennett Conference Room on the CBS Studio Center lot in Studio City where the monthly SCBA board meetings are held are (l-r): Studio City Beautification Association officers secretary Connie Elliot (wearing hat), McDonald, vice president Beth Dymond and treasurer Charles Blakeslee.  Meg McDonald is the daughter of golden era Hollywood movie stars Elisabeth Fraser and Ray McDonald.  To listen to MEG!, please click here.

Trump-Russia Investigation/Manafort Ruling, Border Wall Deal, Parkland Shooting Anniversary/Gun Control, Green New Deal, California Bullet Train Controversy, Iran-Israel Tensions, Brexit Complications, Venezuela Unrest, and NBA Action Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (2/13). The investigation into possible connections between Trump campaign operatives and Russian agents and the related ruling by a judge that Paul Manafort lied to investigators; the ongoing controversy over the tentative U.S.-Mexico border wall deal; the anniversary of the Parkland, Florida shootings and the status of gun control measures; the GOP’s criticism of the Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez sponsored Green New Deal; President Trump’s demand for the return of $3.7 billion in federal money from California after Governor Gavin Newsome spiked the remainder of the bullet train project; the heightened rhetoric between Iran and Israel; the complications of Britain’s exit from the EU and possible economic consequences; the political unrest in Venezuela; and NBA action were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.

Michael Harrison Explores the Impact of Changing Communications Technology on the Human Nervous System. One of the common themes of the present era is the challenge people face in keeping pace and coping with the exponential changes in communications technology. On this week’s installment of the award-winning PodcastOne production, “The Michael Harrison Interview,” the TALKERS founder interviews theoretical physicist Leonard Mlodinow, Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge, and licensed psychotherapist Dr. Bryan Robinson about the rapid changes taking place in our noisy world. Join them for a deep dive into the realm of neuro-plasticity, the sounds of silence, and escaping from the maddening, non-stop workplace. To listen to the podcast in its entirety, please click here or click on the player box marked “The Michael Harrison Interview” located in the right-hand column of the TALKERS email newsletter and every page on Talkers.com.

Music Radio News and Career Moves. Milwaukee CHR WNRG “Energy 106.9” adds the nationally syndicated “Tino Cochino Radio Show” for the afternoon drive daypart.  The program emanates from its home base at Riviera Broadcasting’s KKFR, Mayer, Arizona (Phoenix market)…..Meruelo Media promotes Aimee Bittourna to vice president of its experiential marketing company Actify. In this new position, Bittourna will oversee the development, strategies, and execution of all Actify campaigns.  Meruelo Media president and COO Otto Padron says, “Aimee is a difference maker and a unique brand experience creator. Her energy and creativity are marketing multipliers for our partners seeking original ways to connect their brands to consumers.  She’s a leader in a boundless space and our clients love her.”…..Pictured below is Premiere Networks nationally syndicated adult contemporary personality Delilah on the set of the “TODAY” show (third from left) with show co-hosts Kathie Lee (second from left), Hoda Kotb (left) and psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb (right) discussing ways to overcome fears of being alone on Valentine’s Day.

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Category: Front Page News, Industry News